Swanson’s got skills

Swanson%27s+got+skills

The anticipation of carrying a full load of classes, seeking social acceptance from new peers and adjusting to high school life can terrify incoming freshmen. The more daunting challenge for some student-athletes, however, are tryouts.

“I’ve been playing basketball since I was five,” freshman Sophia Swanson said. “My dad and mom both played basketball, so they asked me when I was younger if I wanted to try it, and I did.”

At the high school, varsity sports teams are generally reserved for upperclassmen; but, occasionally a few exceptional freshmen are called up to play on the varsity team. This was the case for Swanson.

“I was definitely nervous going into tryouts [this year] because I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was really fun,” Swanson said. “When I found out that I made varsity, I was very honored to be given this opportunity, and I was really excited.”

The varsity competition has proven to be a challenge for Swanson every now and then. Varsity games are typically played against bigger, stronger and older opponents.

However, Swanson distinctly emphasizes that age is the one factor that plays very little if any, role in the way the game is played. Despite her young age, she is still respected by her teammates, her coach, and her opponents.

“As you get older, you mature more and start to understand the game more,” Swanson said. “I’ve always played with older girls during [Ametur Athletic Union (AAU)], so I am used to the speed and size of some of these girls, but I’m also playing with a whole new team, so it is something I still have to get used to. My teammates are all very encouraging people and push me and the rest of the team to become better players.”

Despite the age difference among her teammates, Swanson says that she benefits from the relationships formed with the upperclassmen. She fits right in and believes that varsity has improved her stamina as an athlete as well as a student.

“The varsity mindset is definitely helping me mature as an individual, [despite] the little time I’ve spent on this team so far,” Swanson said. “I’ve learned so much about teamwork, work ethic, and commitment, and I can’t wait to see how we grow as a team throughout this season.”

Many freshman athletes come to high school with lots of talent and experience, but piling on hours of extracurricular activities can make the transition rough. After all, outside factors can make life difficult for a freshman.

“[Freshman] do have to learn to juggle time because it is a bit of a grind at times,” said Life Skills Department Chair and Girls’ Varsity Basketball Head Coach Barabra Barreiro. “The game of basketball itself is so much faster at the varsity level, but Sophie has made that adjustment so well. She really has not struggled with the transition as she has a lot of game experience from her past experiences on other teams.”

Barreiro coached the Girls’ Junior Varsity Basketball team in 1989 and became the head coach for the varsity team in 1993. Pointing out Swanson’s early advancements in basketball, Barreiro applauds her skills.

“Most freshmen we bring up clearly have the talent to be there, but she is a little different in that she is starting and playing point guard,” Barreiro said. “She has a great set of skills and she has become an immediate impact player for our team. She is one of our hardest working players during a game.”

The varsity experience has transformed Swanson both on and off the court. Varsity level sports force athletes to mature both as players and as people. Although nervous at times, Swanson remains sure of herself and her abilities.

“I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people, and we’re all becoming good friends, so overall [it’s been] an excellent experience,” Swanson said. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season with these girls and getting to know them better.”

As the season progresses, Swanson is gaining confidence and certainty as she realizes that she truly belongs and is no different than any upperclassman on the team.

“She understands what she excels at and what she needs to continue to develop, and I think she is eager to be the best she can be for her team,” Barreiro said. “It’s very important to her to make sure she is good to her team, and I applaud that. I am expecting some really great things out of her over these next four years, and she is too.”