Fresh on the Field

How do the new athletes affect the freshman football team?

Melia Rasmussen, Staff Writer

How much does a person need to know about football in order to start playing it? Do they need to know what a first down is and why it’s important? Do they need to know what sacking the quarterback means? What position a linebacker plays? For some students, this year is their first time  playing football, which is somewhat uncommon in a community with an active elementary-level football program. They may not even know what a PAT—or point after touchdown—is.

     The freshman football team at West Albany has 43 players, about half of which are new to the sport or haven’t played in recent years. That’s 23 kids playing on the field who are at a disadvantage compared to their veteran teammates and competing against experienced teams. Does this have a negative impact on the team?

“Not really,” freshman head coach Joseph Meekins said. “As a freshman coach you just have to understand that a lot of these kids are new to high level football—and there are going to be mistakes made.”

     Meekins goes on to explain that his players work hard and try to learn as much as they can to be prepared for the games. “The harder they work to reduce those errors and mistakes, the better we are in the long run.” By not setting extreme expectations or standards, Meekins allows the new athletes to perform as best they can with their individual skill level. As they continue to practice through the season, the freshmen can improve without feeling overpressured or stressed in the games.

     Just like beginning a brand new activity, it’s important to pay attention and practice in order to get better. The freshman football team has a large range of potential to expand and strengthen, just like any sports team can, and their new season is just getting started.

“Every year of football that comes up, there are always new people and there’s usually the same amount of people that are new to the sport that come into it,” freshman Joshua LaBelle said in response to whether or not practices have changed. LaBelle, having four years of football experience under his helmet, said that it’s important to have an upbeat attitude during practice and games because “when other people make mistakes, others get on them about it, but it’s more of the coach’s job to do those sort of things.” He also believes that when transitioning from middle school sports to high school sports, everyone, new or veteran, needs a refresher. 

     High school, with its higher leveled sports and standards, is a popular starting point for students who want to try new things because of the wide variety of activities that is provided.             

     For freshman Gage Pearson, who is brand new to football this year, the motivation was a little different.  “[I wanted] to stay fit and have fun,” Pearson said. “I was very lazy when I was younger.” 

     Some may have negative experiences with the sport in the past, so joining a team—especially one as big as a football team—allows a new student to have support and people they can lean back on in times of stress or conflict.

“I think a lot of people, getting into high school, they just really want to be a part of something,”  freshman William Summit reasoned. Summit plays as a starting nose guard on the team, and he hasn’t played the sport before, though he’s watched it growing up. “I don’t know if it was my thing… Everyone was telling me to play it, so I joined and found that I really, really liked it.”       

     While some started football for the challenging athletic aspect, others began to play in order to discover a new experience and to be a part of a team with players who have each other’s backs.

“We’re all pretty much like a family,” Summit said. “You just get really close to everyone, like brothers.”