For better or worse, off-campus athletics have become a fixture of the high school athletics landscape at Deerfield. Although there are many disadvantages to the demanding schedules of off-campus teams, they have become essential for high-performance.
A frequent by-product of admirable factors such as an athlete’s authentic desire to simply do what they love, to maximize talent, performance and potential, or to continue team friendships and bonds that may have formed years prior to Deerfield, off-campus athletics undoubtedly require an extensive time commitment that each individual must set aside. As a result, time may be taken away from their moments on campus, as members of the Deerfield community. It is important for athletes to balance this time with the time they take to pursue their passions.
However, there are other factors behind the rise of off-campus athletics that may or may not be so altruistic. The privatization of youth sports in which professional quality (presumably) coaching has become widely available to aspiring athletes from virtually the moment they can walk for a fee – sometimes as high as $10,000 per season – is one factor. The unceasingly competitive, all-or-nothing college admissions process in which athletic prowess can tip the scale like few other factors this side of GPA and test scores is undoubtedly another.
Balancing off campus athletics as well as academics and co-curriculars is something trying for athletes. Deerfield Women’s Varsity Lacrosse player Hanna Deringer ’20, who hopes to play college lacrosse and plays for the Virginia Metro club team, offers sage advice, “The key is to be disciplined in balancing academic commitments and life at Deerfield as well. Do it if you are passionate about it, but also make sure you can manage it.” Hanna acknowledges the challenge of missing Deerfield activities on the weekend and the challenge of related travel. However, she also enjoys the breaks from campus and opportunity for additional practice. “I have to do a lot of work before I leave campus, otherwise there’s just not enough time…and (you have to be careful not to) spread yourself too thin as you can’t accomplish anything if you do that.”
Alton Machen, a junior boys’ ice hockey player who plays for the Springfield Rifles during weekends in the Fall and who aspires to play Varsity Hockey at Deerfield this winter, feels that off-campus athletics requires discipline and time management, skills that are important throughout life. “Sometimes it’s difficult because we go to faraway places on weekends, but I try to get ahead on my work and do it when I am back on Sunday nights, but it’s difficult because I am a cheerleader and sometimes I miss games.” He adds that, “It depends on the sport, but for hockey, you have to be constantly skating and it’s good preparation for the season. But it’s important to get acquainted with the school if you are new and to do things outside of sports, so you have to manage it.”
Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse Coach Allison DiNardo agrees that it is all about balance, “It takes the right kind of athlete with good time management skills.” Ms. DiNardo notes that many student-athletes participation in off-campus athletics focuses on summer showcases that are important for the college admissions process. Moreover, “Coaches don’t pressure students into off-campus athletics,” according to Ms. DiNardo. She also notes the importance of Deerfield’s multi-sport athlete model which emphasizes that students participate in two or more sports.
In the end, like many decisions all Deerfield students must make for themselves, an off-campus athletics commitment is a process of weighing the pros and cons and making the best personal decision possible.