The pressure of the game


Summer Phenix

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Nearly 57% of high school students participate in sports and only 2% of those athletes will go on to receive an athletic scholarship, creating a competitive environment where only the most dedicated will succeed.

Because the window of opportunity is small, athletes are pressured to commit most of their time to their sport for a scholarship.

In her ninth year coaching at Bellaire and second year being head coach of the girls varsity soccer team, Coach Tomlison says scholarships are awarded to the athletes who want it the most.

“I think a lot of our players start out with the goal of wanting to play a sport in college and receive an athletic scholarship,” Tomlison said. “The reality is that there are so many phenomenal high school players out there, and in order to really get noticed and recruited, you have to be willing to put yourself out there.”

With athletic scholarships being so scarce, just playing for your high school team won’t give athletes the publicity they need to be recruited. This can lead to many athletes showcasing their talents in outside of school leagues such as Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and club sports.

“A lot of times, clubs can be about promoting yourself because you are looking to get that scholarship,” Tomlinson said. “When you are younger, you start out playing different sports for fun. All of your friends are doing it, and you are trying to figure out which sports you like the best. Now, it seems like it is earlier and earlier that clubs want players to commit, with the promise of getting them college scholarships.”

Just because outside leagues can enhance an athlete’s career does not mean high school sports aren’t beneficial to the recruitment process.

“Sure, if a college coach is at one of our tournaments or games specifically looking at a certain player, we are going to figure out a way to showcase that player a little bit more in that situation,” Tomlison said. “Having film from high school games and being able to send clips from both high school and club is helpful.”

Girls varsity basketball player, Erin Love, said coaches learn each player’s goals then train them accordingly. Because of the individual goals, she believes there is not a lot of pressure on athletes to receive a scholarship.

“I think if your coach knows you want to go to the next level, they will push you to a level they know you can get to,” Love said. “But if the coaches know you don’t want to go to the next level and you just want to play they will push you hard, but not to fall in love with it.”

By not having the pressure of competition with teammates with limited scholarships, friendships and community are created while playing high school sports.

“High school allows you to work hard towards that goal while also competing for your school and community alongside your best friends,” Tomlison said. “Many of these girls have been playing together for a long time, and that is really special”

Playing sports is not always about being the best or earning that scholarship. Many athletes play because they like the game.

“Some play just to play,” Love said. “Sometimes people play to further their education or to become something. Sometimes everything in life can be overwhelming and basketball [sports] can be your outlet.”

Although some may come into high school feeling the pressure of receiving a scholarship, there is no pressure. Coach Tomlison advises student-athletes to never give up and continue to work hard.

“The student-athlete experience is so much bigger than the name of the school,” Tomlison said. It is showing up every single day and giving the best you have on that day, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Just keep showing up and working hard while being coachable and a good teammate.”