By: Skyler Stanford
It’s no secret that the Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS) Sports teams tend to be very competitive. “It can be quite rigorous for individuals to make it” said Mr. Sheehan, the Athletic director at the high school. He accredited this to the fact that SSHS competes in the suburban council which is one of the most competitive leagues in the state. With that in mind, it is not surprising that many of our sports teams have a tryout period in which cuts are made before the beginning of the season. Fourteen SSHS students who are a currently members of a sports team or have experienced trying out for one, were interviewed to find out more information about the climate of our athletic department from a student perspective. Two coaches were also consulted to further investigate the thought process behind cuts.
Not all our sports teams have cuts. There are various modified sports as well as specific teams that don’t have a tryout system. The Track and Tennis teams don’t have cuts because they both have sufficient resources to support a large team. Mr. Crotty, the assistant coach for the girls’ varsity tennis team and teacher at SSHS said “our facility allows it, we have thirteen courts…if we only had like 7 or 8 courts like some other schools we play, we probably wouldn’t be able to fit everyone out there”. Inadequate infrastructure is not an issue for SSHS. Our school has large courts and fields, a relatively new track, two workout rooms filled with training equipment and two gyms for indoor sports like basketball. So, if we have enough resources to supply most sports teams with the proper materials to practice and compete, why are there cuts? Mr. Crotty explained this by speaking about his experience as a former assistance varsity coach for the boys’ basketball team. “We had like fifty kid’s tryout, obviously you can’t keep fifty kids…you have your one coach and only five people can play on the court” he said. In other words, if you have a lot of players you’ll have tons of people just sitting on the bench, and with a limited amount of coaches it becomes harder to manage a large team.
Mr. Harrington brought to light another reason why cuts are implemented. He coaches the 8th grade modified football team, a team that also doesn’t have cuts but rather disperses players into three levels (Modified, Junior Varsity, and Varsity). “It’s based on who can protect themselves…some kids are too small or have a physical condition” he said. His statement made perfect sense; a ninety-pound boys would be more likely to get hurt on the field and should not be playing with kids taller and heavier than them. The dividing up of players vs having cuts allows for more students to play, which Harrington said should be “the goal of sports and physical education”.
Other sports do have skill based cuts but in those cases, it seems quite reasonable. Gymnastics as well as the swimming and diving team for example, both make skill based cuts, For these sports, they practice and/or compete for a large portion of the year or year-round which raises the average performance level of the team. The downside is that it makes it harder for someone who’s just interested and has little experience to join. A student can’t simply join the swim team if they’re not a strong swimmer, just like a student who can’t do a cartwheel can’t join the gymnastics team. For many sports this is also a factor. Several of our teams are not ones where beginners can gain experience. They must come to tryouts with a certain level of experience just to meet the minimum performance standards.
The teams that did have a formal tryout period typically cut less than five athletes. Hockey was a definite outlier, having ten cuts per tryout period according to Quinn Leffler, who has been on the team for a year. These ten cuts are made from the average thirty-five students that tryout. “Teams are kept to twenty-five…if you go over that, people don’t get enough playing time” he said. This was also true for girls’ volleyball where they have a limited number of players to insures reasonable playing time for everyone. Players who are cut are often taken in private with the coach where they are explained the reason they are cut and the areas in which they could improve in case they want to tryout again for the next season. The system isn’t as cut-throat at it appears on the surface.
There are still many students who suffer as a result of this system. Getting cut from a team can be devastating. “I was really upset” says Gianna Martuscello a student at SSHS who tried out for the girls’ volleyball team in the past and didn’t make the cut. When asked why she thinks she didn’t make it she responded with: “My serves were not good and wouldn’t go over the net”. Martuscello attended volleyball camps over the winter in preparation for the season and was rather disappointed. Still, she remains very active with a personal trainer and continues to stay in good shape.
Heather Abbott’s story is slightly different. She moved from Keene Central School; a smaller school in New York where she played soccer, basketball, and softball. When Abbott arrived at Saratoga she tried out for all three teams and didn’t make one. She believes a lot of the reason she didn’t make the team was because many players did play/train all year-round so the skill level was greater. She did admit to not “training enough” in preparation for tryouts which likely lead to her having decreased chances of making the team. When asked if she thought the current tryout system was too harsh Abbott responded with: “I think they like to keep the same people and not let new people on the team…I felt secluded at tryouts”. To reiterate, the teams that have players that train year-round are very difficult to make for someone who doesn’t have as much experience, even if that person is athletic. Martuscello and Abbott both said they wouldn’t tryout for the teams in the future.
Despite the cut system there are still some teams that have slight mobility. There’s a chance that the modified player on the football team can make it to varsity one day, or the girl who’s been playing JV field hockey for the past year to finally make it to varsity. Students who don’t make the team of their choice should be reminded that there are other sports that don’t make cuts and often with hard work and training they can greatly increase their chances of making the team in the future.