Think you can’t be an athlete?

Janice Banola, Staff Writer

From clubs to sports, some students are hesitant to try new things because of the unknown ─ instead telling themselves they can’t do a certain sport because they’re new to it and don’t want to “suck.”
However, sports aren’t always about being the best or most talented; competing in sports is also about improving the individual. No one knows this better than senior Nico Martinez, who competed in track & field his junior year with no prior experience, despite his bigger frame.
“Although I never tend to finish first in my events, I focused on improving my times throughout the season and reaching my goals,” Martinez said.
Even if a potential athlete has a goal of being one of the top runners or swimmers, prior experience and skill isn’t always necessary.
“Sports are 80 percent just showing up and putting in the work and 20 percent actual skill or athleticism,” math teacher and track & field coach Eric Vallecillo said.
Coaches agree that athleticism is helpful, but only if athletes put in the work necessary to unlock and build upon their natural talents. Having the drive to actually play the sport is also a big factor in how well athletes do in their sport.
“I would say sports are 85 percent dedication and 15 percent skill because you have to actually want to be at practice in order to improve,” senior soccer player Emily Stein said.
Senior hurdler Jason Jimenez, who began hurdling late sophomore year as a first-timer and is expected to qualify for at least sections this upcoming track season for the 300m hurdles, knows how important a strong work ethic is for an athlete.
“[What really motivates me] is striving to beat the person in front of me,” Jimenez said. “And seeing my improvement just further inspires me to improve daily.”
Jimenez’s times have shown tremendous improvement, starting at a 46.17 seconds time for the 300m hurdles, and ending with a 42.98 seconds time for the season; his work ethic has allowed for a four second decrease in his time, which is a major improvement for the sport.
Regardless of whether the student is one of the best hurdlers or stays on the bench, athletes say just spending time with other athletes makes sports fun. The possible lifetime bonds that can result from participating in sports only adds to the appeal of being an athlete.
Senior basketball player Jordan Amen describes how participating in basketball has helped him to build relationships with his “brothers” Nick To and Randy Cabral.
“Basketball has allowed me to create bonds with people I never thought of talking with [in Randy and Nick],” Amen said. “While basketball is my stress-reliever, it is also my door of opportunity.”
However, coaches understand that trying out a new sport can be terrifying, so they try to reassure new athletes.
“We try to create an engaging atmosphere for students by having a conversation with them or encouraging them so they feel more welcome and are more likely to continue playing,” track & field coach Lauren Fromm said.
Not only can students gain lifetime bonds from playing in a sport, but they can also learn how to better manage time between school and sports.
According to a study by researcher Ryan Stegall, student-athletes tend to have higher GPAs and better mental health than non-athletes, which only adds to the advantages of being an athlete.
So suit up and step outside your comfort zone.