For long, varsity sports have been dominated by upperclassmen not only because of their skills and experience, but also simply because of the students’ title as upperclassmen. However, this trend is starting to break down as more underclassmen with unprecedented skills come into high school and impress the coaches. Significantly contributing to the team strength as well as team chemistry, underclassmen have become a vital part in varsity sports.
Every sport – grouped or individual – has a team, necessitating strong chemistry as a foundation for further performance. With experienced members graduating and new members coming in every year, this team chemistry builds from scratch at the beginning of every season. To ensure good team dynamic, every member regardless of their positions, strengths, and most importantly age, contributes by caring for one another.
“Cross country requires a ton of good work ethic,” said Joe Kim (12), varsity cross-country team captain. “The underclassmen’s role is to bring out and demonstrate their youth power. They are also the recipients of the upperclassmen’s knowledge, wisdom, character, and work ethic, so it is our responsibility to encourage them and teach them by example.”
Instead of a distant and disconnected atmosphere, the upperclassmen help the underclassmen fit into the dynamic of the team and foster a more inclusive environment for every member, regardless of their grade, to perform at their full potential. Having been selected through tough competition, every member values their place on the team, and this translates to their work ethic as well.
“There are many underclassmen that break the stereotype that only upperclassmen can play in games,” said Shelley Jeon (12), varsity girls volleyball athlete. “On our team, Grace Ganus (10) demonstrates this with her amazing skills. She is a great hitter equipped with good sportsmanship and attitude. She never hangs her head, and many times she has been a role model to older members on the team.”
Due to the sunbae-hoobae hierarchy that dominates school communities in Korea, many students believe that it is impossible for underclassmen to be given opportunities before older students. However, in the world of sports, one’s age has no say in their athletic career. Solely their abilities and effort define their value as a player and a teammate. With passion, there is nothing that will stop an athletic freshman from becoming the team’s most valuable player.