Sherwood coach says early pressure can push students away from their sports
Rising Sherwood senior Kasey Rosen played softball for nearly a decade before giving the sport up in high school.
Duncan Hawvermale wrestled from ages 5 to 15. He spent his first two years at James H. Blake High School on the Bengals’ squad, competing in the 103- and 112-pound weight classes.
When his junior season rolled around, he chose not to go out for the team. The sheer repetition of day-after-day practices got boring, he said. A lifelong snowboarder, he was barred from hitting the slopes while his team was on the mat.
“I just didn’t want to put the work in anymore. I got tired of it,” Hawvermale said. “I guess I just didn’t love it as much as I used to.”
Hawvermale is among the athletes who, in their latter years of high school or at the beginning of college, discontinued sports they’ve played their whole lives.
With children focusing on a single sport at younger ages, players such as Hawvermale can burn out easier as they move through the ranks.
“I think that there is a ton of pressure out there,” Sherwood High School softball coach Ashley Barber-Strunk wrote in an email. “School (specific classes to take, grades and scores), family pushing them to be the best, and burnout would be among the top reasons students do not go on after college. These kids are playing year-round when they are younger and do it more vigorously as they get older. I think others don’t see a future beyond college and would rather just not have to worry about something they have been doing year-round since they are young.”
Barber-Strunk said, in her experience, maybe one of six softball players will actually pursue softball after high school, either intercollegiately or through intramurals. The emphasis on competition at an early age, she said, turns players off from participating as they get older.
“The emphasis on being the best certainly plays a role,” she said. “I think athletes need to relax more and not stress so much.”
Sherwood rising senior Kasey Rosen played varsity softball her freshman and sophomore years before dropping the sport just before her junior season. She said she played softball for nearly a decade, and after coming off knee surgery a month before the season began, opted to sit the spring out.
“I’d been playing for so long and I kind of just needed a break,” she said. “Some of my friends felt the same way. Some people can keep going and enjoy the sport like when they start, but some people just lose the love of the game.”
After missing spending time with friends and family — her older brother Andrew was poised to leave for college — Rosen said she decided she’d had enough.
“I kind of found a way to get used to it and work my schedule around sports,” she said. “But it just got a little too much. I missed doing stuff with my friends and family. My friends had all this free time and I always wondered what that would be like.”
Both Hawvermale and Rosen said they each miss their respective sports.
Hawvermale said wrestling always reminded him of friendly roughhousing with his older brother as a child.
Rosen said her father gets nostalgic about the game they shared as she grew up.
“I kind of wish I was out there again,” she said. “I miss the atmosphere.”
But Rosen moved on to play volleyball for the Warriors, where she was part of back-to-back-to-back state championships. She said she doesn’t know if she wants to play varsity volleyball in college, but is convinced she wants to at least play club or recreationally.
“It’s so addicting,” she said.
Hawvermale’s old wrestling skills certainly came in handy recently — at about 5 a.m. on June 30 in Jackson, N.J.
Hawvermale, 22, was a bit groggy walking back to his car. In bare feet and basketball shorts, he was set to drive four hours from a friend’s graduation party back to College Park. He needed to be there in time to work the 9 a.m. shift at Bill’s Backyard Barbeque.
That’s when Hawvermale noticed the trunk of his Chevy Malibu was open and a stranger was rifling through his belongings. A second person was sitting in his front seat toying with his GPS.
“The first thing I see is the trunk wide open mysteriously,” Hawvermale said. “The first guy said he was sorry and ran away. The second guy tried to put down my possessions and asked if I could just let him go.”
Hawvermale said that wasn’t going to happen. When the perpetrator tried to run, Hawvermale’s 10 years of wrestling experience kicked in.
As the second intruder tried to flee, Hawvermale used a wrestling move called “leg riding” — when standing above an opponent, a wrestler twists his leg between his foe’s calf and thigh to bring him down. This freed Hawvermale’s hands, so he could calmly reach into his pocket and call police.
He restrained the intruder in that hold until authorities arrived. Hawvermale got to work on time.
“Your moves in wrestling stay with you,” he said.