A whole new playing field

Eighth graders playing at the high school level benefits future of athletic programs

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Aelise Gagliano

An eighth grade student competes for the JV girls soccer team against Mcintosh. “I would definitely recommend trying out to future eighth graders,” eighth grader Andrew Cole said. “It’s a great experience and it’s a lot of fun.”

Kyle Soto, Staff Writer

One of the most crucial components of high school sports is the new generation stepping in from the middle school. One method of creating a quality athlete is beginning to play at an earlier age, something various Starr’s Mill athletic teams offer eighth grade students attending Rising Starr.

When they come up and play at the JV level they are seeing better competition, which, in the long run, helps better prepare them for varsity.”

— softball coach Mark Williamson

“I think it gives them early exposure and a taste of high school life before they get here,” JV boys soccer coach Aaron Buck said. “You have a wider level of talent and skill.”

To become the best one has to practice and play with the best. According to the Georgia High School Association, eighth graders can play at the JV level or the freshman level, if there is one for that particular sport. While these young student athletes are not able to play at the varsity level, they gain experience by playing with older and better skilled athletes.

“This past year we had seven eighth graders playing up,” softball coach Mark Williamson said. “I like it because we have an extra year to work with them. They learn our expectations.”

Winning is not everything in athletics. As eighth graders play at the freshman or JV level, they play alongside older and more experienced athletes, allowing them to learn key and valuable lessons and practice behaviors. Due to this early exposure to older and better experienced athletes, these eighth graders have an edge over their opponents in the future.

“When they played at the middle school program at Rising Starr, they were winning every game,” Williamson said. “In my opinion, that isn’t good for you. When they come up and play at the JV level they are seeing better competition, which, in the long run, helps better prepare them for varsity.”

Andrew Cole and Brooklyn Muccillo both tried out for and made the JV boys’ soccer team. Both of these eighth graders embraced the opportunity of playing a high school sport, gaining invaluable experience along the way.

“Playing with the older guys made be a better player overall,” eighth grade JV goalkeeper Andrew Cole said. “Before this season I had always played recreational soccer. Coach Buck was a great coach. He gave the other goalkeeper and [me] goalkeeper training, which is something I never had before.”

High school sports differ from sports outside of school. There are wider ranges of athletes in terms of age, physicality, and skill. While these factors may take some getting used to, they prove to be a major component of high school sports.

“I thought they improved in a lot of areas,” freshman baseball coach Zach Mann said. “They started out shy as far as team chemistry but then they grew and mixed in with the 9th graders.”

The freshman baseball team had more eighth graders than freshman, leaving a bright future for Starr’s Mill baseball.

“The ones that can contribute as eighth graders play on really high level teams,” Buck said. “This gives them a view of how everyone else plays, something they might not have seen before.”

These eighth grade students reap a wide variety of benefits from this opportunity. While they may not necessarily play as much as the older athletes, they still learn various lessons and practice behaviors, which will ultimately help these young student athletes fulfill their long-term potential. Learning under the tutelage of more experienced coaches, the future of Starr’s Mill athletics is a bright one.