High-SchoolGirl: ESPNHS All-Stars

All-Star Spotlight: Playing for Coach Mom

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
1:46
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Kyley ReedCourtesy of Kyley ReedKyley Reed says playing for her mom went from rough at the start to rewarding at the end. "I could not have been more proud to be the coach's daughter."
Every week in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Kyley Reed, a senior volleyball player at Rocky Hill (Conn.), shares the highs and lows of playing for a coach who happens to be your mom.

I won’t deny it. Running sprints for someone who just reamed you because you still haven’t cleaned your room isn’t exactly easy to swallow. But welcome to the world of parent-coaching.

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Courtesy of Kyley Reed/ESPNHSKyley Reed is a senior volleyball player at Rocky Hill (Conn.).
When the line between parenting and coaching becomes nearly nonexistent, it is easy for tension and frustration to make their presence. Take my mom and I, for example.

In case you haven’t noticed, teenage girls find it particularly easy to argue with their moms. I am no exception.

And that is what we did -- my mom and I fought. A lot. So you can imagine that when she got a whistle in her mouth and a ball in her hand, the tension only grew thicker. And God forbid she started dancing in practice. That was usually when I made my exit.

But besides some harmless embarrassment, the tension between us was undeniable. At many practices, I made it clear that she was on my nerves. And although I wasn’t aware of this then, the problems between my mother and I had a negative effect on the whole team.

As long as the tension remained, the enjoyment decreased. It was impossible for me to have fun playing volleyball when I was always so annoyed with my mom. Additionally, it was impossible for the team to feel comfortable and grow as a unit if my mom and I were so obviously opposed to each other.

But then I realized something. I had never let school-related drama affect the way I played with my teammates, so why should I let petty drama at home affect the way I treated my mother as a coach? In the car, at home, and even in the lobby outside the gymnasium, she was my mom. But on the volleyball court, she was my coach. So I made a simple decision: I would recognize this and stick to it.

I had to swallow my pride and ignore my stubbornness and simply be another player on the team. And once I could do that, I would be able to enjoy the season, the team and the sport I loved.

And if you’re wondering how that worked out for me, it actually went quite well. We ended my senior season with a spectacular finish and a state title. And although I’d spent a large part of the season working to be “just another player” in my mom’s eyes, when she got to put that championship medal around my neck, we suddenly became very aware of our special relationship. And I could not have been more proud to be the coach’s daughter.

All of the suppressed comments and frustrated sighs directed at my mom over the course of the season didn’t matter then, because my mom was putting that medal around my neck and it was one of the most special moments we’ve ever had.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Editors note: Kyley was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Connecticut.

All-Star Spotlight: Go ahead and motivate

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
2:42
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Every week in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Bella Rutkowski, a senior at Simsbury (Conn.), shows how hard work at practice can motivate the rest of your team.

Imagine your average girls’ high school sports team running its daily 2-mile warm-up run before practice.

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Courtesy of Bella RutkowskiBella Rutkowski is a senior at Simsbury (Conn.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
When I imagine this scenario, I picture the majority of girls running together at an average pace, a couple lagging slightly behind, and those two or three girls that always have to be first. Well, during one of my field hockey seasons, I was one of those girls.

Now keep in mind, I was one of those girls only because my closest friend on the team pushed me to run as fast as I could and not give in to my body every time it told me I was about to die.

Over the course of that season I had mixed feelings about always being one of the first girls to return to the coach after the warm-up run.

On one hand, I was thankful that my friend dragged me (literally) through each of those runs and raised my standard of physical feats. I felt motivated and slightly smug when I would be one of the first girls to pass the guys’ soccer fields on the run back. I also felt extremely strong and confident in my running ability that season, and I probably had most of my best field hockey games that year due to my physical skill as well as my confident mental state.

On the other hand, however, being one of the first to finish something always ends up with you having stepped on some people’s toes along the way. Some girls were noticeably frustrated when I would beat them back to the starting point.

Luckily for me, over the course of the season all the girls became more motivated and we were all running alongside each other by the end of the season. The girls who had been running behind the group ended up becoming more motivated when pushed by us, their teammates, just like my friend had done for me.

Throughout this experience I’ve realized that when a team applies an effective strategy and makes it work for everyone, the result will be a positive one.

All-Star Spotlight: Can you dress for success?

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
11:40
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Every week in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Hannah Hicks, a freshman lacrosse and tennis player at King Low Heywood Thomas (Stamford, Conn.), shares her thoughts on sports fahsion.

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Courtesy of Hannah Hicks/ESPNHSHannah Hicks is a freshman lacrosse and tennis player at King Low Heywood Thomas (Stamford, Conn.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
As the years go by, more and more popular brands like Juicy Couture, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste have started making sportswear. I have even seen designer sportswear becoming extremely common in my area in New York and Connecticut. So I ask, does wearing the latest trends really affect your performance as an athlete?

Some people say that knowing they “look better” while performing helps boost their ego and ability.

In sports such as lacrosse, soccer and field hockey, uniforms are required during games and you don't have the choice of wearing or not wearing designer sportswear, except during practice. But in tennis, golf and other solo sports, the option is there.

My friend who is a very competitive tennis player told me the other day that when she plays her most important matches, she wears her “lucky” Ralph Lauren tennis dress with socks to match. I am now wondering if because the dress is fashionable, it might give her an ego boost against her opponent who perhaps isn't wearing the latest designer dress.

As a tennis player myself, I prefer avoiding the really expensive cost of designer sportswear (some jackets can cost up to $225). I usually wear sports clothes from more affordable brands like Nike or Target, which still look fashionable.

Although wearing designer sports clothes may make you look and feel better, at the end of the day your incredible performance is what people remember, not the cute tennis dress you wore.

All-Star Spotlight: Teammates turn into family

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
11:10
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Every week in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Caroline Metcalf-Vera, a sophomore track and field and soccer player at Dedham (Mass.), describes how her teammates became her family.

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Courtesy of Caroline Metcalf-VeraCaroline Metcalf-Vera is a sophomore track and field and soccer player at Dedham (Mass.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
Team and family. I tend to use those words interchangeably. For four months, you spend every day with your team. Your bond becomes unbreakable. You do everything together.

My season ended last Thursday, and the hardest thing to do was say goodbye. Our team spent every waking moment together. We had team dinners three times a week, and on the days we didn’t have dinner we would have a game.

On the days of the games we would either wear our uniforms to school or dress up. Starting from the first day of school, we dressed up as nerds, gangsters and fairies. On the days we had night games we would do a “black out” by dressing in all black.

Our biggest concern was getting ready for our game, not how we appeared to the rest of the school. And trust me, we went all-out. Walking into school in suspenders, rolled up pants, glasses, braided pigtails, and mismatched socks was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever done.

Caroline Metcalf-Vera
Courtesy of Caroline Metcalf-VeraCaroline Metcalf-Vera says bonding activities turned her Dedham (Mass.) teammates into family.
We would do absolutely everything to psych ourselves up. We had our warm-up CD, which we would play in a specific order on the bus and at the field. On the long bus rides, we would make up dances.

It didn’t matter how crazy we looked to the rest of the world; we had our eyes on the prize and we were ready to play. I personally believe that the way we played had something to do with what we did to psych ourselves up. If our heads weren’t in the game that morning in school, we wouldn’t play well.

Come the end of the season, we fought as hard as we could not to go home.

The hardest part was saying goodbye to your family, but you never forget the memories that were made.

All-Star Spotlight: 10 songs to pump you up

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
12:47
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Every week in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Meredith Rizzo, a junior track and cross country star at Bronxville (N.Y.), shares 10 songs that make her day.

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Courtesy of Meredith Rizzo/ESPNHSMeredith Rizzo of Bronxville (N.Y.) runs track and cross country and is a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
Want to make your team burst into dancing at your next team dinner? Or start off your day with more energy? A good song can make all the difference. Here are my top 10 jams I suggest you download ASAP. Happy listening!

MORNING BEATS
Three to start up your day:
“Good Day Sunshine” by The Beatles: I love the Beatles. They’re classic and basically have a song for everything.
“New Shoes” by Paolo Nutini: Very appropriate for runners.
“You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates: It’s so upbeat, it makes me feel better just listening to it.

TEAM JAMS
Want to burst into dancing at your next team dinner?
“Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar & Lucenzo: My team song. Even though I don’t understand half the lyrics, you can’t help but want to dance. My team and I even have our own dance to it. It’s our team theme song.
“Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People: Who doesn’t like this song? It's also very appropriate for runners.

TRAINING MUSIC
The top three on my running playlist. I blast them while doing road runs on my own over the weekends.
“Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd: I don’t know what it is about this song, but I love it. Kind of random, but if you listen to the lyrics the story is pretty funny and it has a great beat for running.
“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones: Rock and roll always makes great running music. It helps motivate me to keep my feet moving even when I want to stop.
“She Is” by The Fray: I love the Fray. They have some really great music, but the rhythm of this song is just right. If I listen to it while I’m running, it makes me go faster.

FOREIGN TUNES
I take French in school. So every Wednesday, our class listens to French music, and these are my two favorites. I’ve been trying to learn the words so that I can sing along, but I can’t say them fast enough!
“Que veux-tu (Madeon Remix)” by Yelle: The music video for this is so random it’s hilarious. This guy has got some serious moves!
“Elle Me Dit” by Mika: Another random music video goes with this. Highly suggest looking up the lyric translation. His music is very ironic. The lyrics are actually pretty sad but the song is sung really happily.

All-Star Spotlight: Cheerleading is a sport

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
8:50
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Every week in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Samantha Dubreuil, a sophomore cheerleader at East Lyme (Conn.), explains why cheerleading is a sport.

Being an all-star cheerleader, nothing is more infuriating to me than being told that it is not a sport. When people think of cheerleading, thoughts of “spirit fingers” and pom-poms often come to mind. However, having been an all-star cheerleader for five years now, I have grown to respect and love the sport. Here’s why.

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Courtesy of Samantha Dubreuil/ESPNHSSamantha Dubreuil is a sophomore cheerleader at East Lyme (Conn.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
Before I started cheering, I was big into soccer and softball. The thought of being a cheerleader didn’t appeal to me until my older sister started doing it. I was even one of those individuals who thought cheerleading was all about “spirit fingers.” I was wrong.

In all-star cheerleading, rather than cheering for a basketball or a football team, you learn one 2-minute, 30-second routine and show it off at a selection of different competitions. There are different performance levels, too -- 1 being the lowest and 6 being the best -- a judging model very similar to gymnastics or figure skating.

In order to achieve different skills, each athlete must condition and put in the effort to learn them. Since I play other sports such as lacrosse and track, I know what it’s like to run up and down a field, or do 55-meter hurdles. In my opinion, I can easily and confidently say that all-star cheerleading is the hardest sport out of them all.

Getting thrown into the air and flipping all over the place for that amount of time requires persistence and agility. It has even been proven that it takes 30 muscles to throw a football, and 40 muscles to do a standing tuck.

So the next time someone decides to say cheerleading isn’t a sport, they should give it a try. They will be proven wrong, just like I was.

All-Star Spotlight: Life without sports

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
3:55
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Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Bella Rutkowski, a senior at Simsbury (Conn.), explains her reasons for giving up organized sports as a junior and how fitness remains a priority.

I want to start this off by saying I'm not the world’s most competitive female athlete, nor am I Connecticut’s rising sports star, nor am I even the best athlete in my high school. I am a typical 17-year-old girl, interested in staying fit, spending time with my friends, building teamwork skills, blowing off some stress, and engaging in good-hearted competition; these are the main aspects of sports that I love.

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Courtesy of Bella RutkowskiBella Rutkowski is a senior at Simsbury (Conn.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
My high school sports career started off with my freshman field hockey season. I had never played field hockey, much less be a part of a sports team at all, so it was a memorable experience to say the least. The season brought with it many firsts, like my first preseason conditioning workouts (run by the seniors, of course) and my first time being a member of a 16-girl family.

My freshman spring season, I gave lacrosse a try, and in sophomore year, I took part in my second year of field hockey.

During the spring of sophomore year, a great new opportunity was given to the female athletes at my high school. We were all finally able to play with the boys. A few of the boys’ rugby club coaches were eager to increase the sport’s popularity, so they recruited girls who would be willing to participate in rugby as well. Being the first Connecticut Girls High School Rugby Team was thrilling for all of us and gave us an experience we otherwise never would have had. Because I’m not a huge fan of soccer or cheerleading, rugby was a great way to get involved in something completely new and exciting.

Deciding whether or not to participate in a sport my junior year was complicated. I realized I had a lot more responsibility than the previous two years, especially as college hunting approached. Ultimately I decided not to participate in sports because of my crazy schedule.

Physical fitness has always been extremely important to me, so I still work out at home and at the gym. I have so much respect for girls who are able to balance school, a job and a sport, especially in their senior year.

Although I no longer play, I am still able to achieve all the amazing aspects of sports that I mentioned earlier. Working out individually allows me to stay fit and blow off stress, but I also really value the chance to work out with my friends. That keeps me motivated during the workout since I get to spend more quality time with them, doing something that benefits us all.

All-Star Spotlight: Coping with concussions

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
10:22
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Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Caroline Metcalf-Vera, a sophomore track and field and soccer player at Dedham (Mass.), describes the difficulty of her down time while recovering from two concussions.

READ MORE: Are girls at greater risk for concussions? | Anatomy of a concussion

It’s the fall of 2011. You know what’s in? Tribal prints, vintage 70s, colorblock dresses and concussions.

At least that’s what I found out on my visit to Children’s Hospital Boston sifting through piles of medical magazines along with the occasional Vogue thrown in there.

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Courtesy of Caroline Metcalf-VeraCaroline Metcalf-Vera is a sophomore track and field and soccer player at Dedham (Mass.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
It used to be two weeks max you were out for a concussion, right? Well not anymore. It has been three months since I received my first one.

I’m a soccer goalie, so I am no stranger to collisions. But in a co-ed scrimmage in late July, I took a pretty bad hit. After spending a significant amount of time in the ER, I was told that I have to pass a slew of tests before returning to the field. I was devastated, but I knew I would be back before the start of the season.

Well, the start of the season came and went. I had made varsity, failed the concussion test three times, and was still sitting on the bench by the end of September. I thought that by making varsity I would immediately feel the bond that everybody talks about. Now to an extent I did. But, I wasn’t playing or practicing, so I wasn’t really part of the team. I was the one shagging balls, keeping stats and warming up the starting goalie.

It was inevitable, I know. And I wasn’t upset about doing it until my teammates would say; “Caroline, why aren’t YOU doing this” as they were chasing their own ball. So yeah, I’d say it started to get under my skin.

I started feeling bad for myself. And that was when I knew I had a choice:

A. I could sulk for the rest of the season, overanalyze the team’s every word, and play victim.

B. Get past my own insecurities about whether I really deserved to be on this team, stop overthinking every situation and act like the member of the team I was.

Of course, the easiest choice was to play victim, but I knew that I was in a sense “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Turns out, I was right; the only issue was my insecurities. I was just as much a part of the team as our leading scorer or our best defenseman. Now, I didn’t have as an important “job,” but my contribution mattered just as much.

Whether you’re a freshman who rides the bench the entire season, or you’re a captain who tore your ACL, or someone like me who suffers a concussion, you have those two options. It’s easy to feel bad for yourself, but you can also prove that you won’t let your injury hold you back.

Now three months out, and I just suffered a second concussion. I am currently not even allowed to participate in a full day of school. I’ve learned the hard way that your brain is important, and the consequences of getting back out on the field before you are fully healed are not worth it.

It’s frustrating, but there are bigger things at stake than playing in the next game, like your long-term health.

All-Star Spotlight: Starburst for your huddle?

October, 18, 2011
10/18/11
2:43
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Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Kyley Reed, a senior volleyball player at Rocky Hill (Conn.), reveals the importance of the two red Starbursts she keeps in her bag.

Stuffed way in the corner of my volleyball backpack is a tiny red pouch. This pouch travels with me to every athletic event I attend. What lies inside this pouch is not very sentimental, it’s not magical, and it’s not really that cool. Inside this pouch are two red Starbursts.

Yes, it’s my favorite flavor, but I don’t even eat them. The only purpose these Starbursts serve is to sit in my backpack and remind me every once in a while of a lesson I once learned in a rather unusual team huddle.

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Courtesy of Kyley Reed/ESPNHSKyley Reed is a senior volleyball player at Rocky Hill (Conn.).
The team huddle I am referring to was unlike any other in that it was possibly the most unfitting huddle I’ve ever experienced. We were down 24-23, and we had just given the other team match point. Our coach was not happy, and neither were we. So she called a timeout, and we braced ourselves for her fury. We jogged over toward the bench and stood silent.

She waited a moment and studied our faces. Finally she began, “So, what’s everyone’s favorite flavor of Starburst?”

We stared at her with confused looks on our faces. Starburst?

Our coach turned to me waiting for an answer. Hoping I’d heard her correctly, I said timidly, “Well I guess I’d have to go with red.”

She then faced my other five teammates who also listed their favorite flavors with questioning expressions. Once she’d finished listening, she started chatting. It was match point and we now had 43 seconds left in this timeout and our coach was chatting. About Starburst. I wondered if this was real.

“I love the pink ones. All of the other ones I just leave in the wrapper.” She chuckled to herself and continued. “But I’m more of a Sour Patch kind of gal anyways.” Then one of my teammates chimed in, “Oh, Sour Patch all day!”

Laughter filled the huddle, and soon we were all shouting out opinions on the best Sour Patch Kids, Starburst and Skittles flavors.

“Green and yellow Skittles taste like Sprite, it’s wonderful!”

“Yellow Skittles?! Are you out of your mind?”

Our coach was not yelling, but we were.

And before we knew it, the buzzer blared and our timeout came to an end. So our coach began with a smile, “All right, guys. Just play. Keep those smiles on your faces and do what you know how to do.”

We walked out onto that court with no trace of defeat or nerves. We were relaxed and confident and had regained our energy. So we just played, and we won.

And that is the story behind those two red Starbursts that stay tucked in the corner of my volleyball backpack. Whenever it’s game point and I feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I think of Sour Patch, Starburst, and Skittles. I relax and just play.

All-Star Spotlight: 10 quotes for locker room

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
12:05
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Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Laura Smolinski, a senior volleyball player at Rham (Hebron, Conn.), shares 10 inspirational quotes that push her to improve.

If you're like me, you look for quotes to inspire you to keep pushing.

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Courtesy of Laura SmolinskiLaura Smolinski is a senior volleyball player at RHAM (Hebron, Conn.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
Whether your team is struggling for its first win or if you’re an undefeated powerhouse, you turn to successful people to help you stay motivated.

This week, I found a bunch of gold stars in a party store and had my teammates each write a favorite quote on one. Then we hung them in the locker room for inspiration.

To really understand these, you have to take a closer look. When your team is down, you have to work extra hard to bring yourselves to make a comeback. No matter how crazy the moment, that moment is all that really matters. Take every play and shot for what it’s worth and realize that you will never get it back. Take nothing for granted and recognize what you have before it’s gone. Working hard and having a positive attitude will help drive your team to success. And lastly, never give up. Always remember that!

Here are 10 quotes that should make you really think about what’s going on. After all, "Ninety percent of the game is half mental." – Yogi Berra

1. "The harder you work the harder it is to surrender." - Vince Lombardi

2. "Fall down seven times, get up eight." - Japanese Proverb

3. "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal." – Henry Ford

4. "It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit." -Harry S. Truman

5. "Sometimes it’s not how good you are, but how bad you want it." - Anonymous

6. “Don’t pin your success on outcomes.” – “The Peaceful Warrior”

7. “Make every move about the move — that one moment in time.” – “The Peaceful Warrior"

8. "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." – Author Unknown

9. "A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing." - Payne Stewart

10."Build your weaknesses until they become your strengths." - Knute Rockne

All-Star Spotlight: Three tips for balancing school and sports

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
5:04
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Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Hannah Hicks, a freshman soccer and lacrosse player at King Low Heywood Thomas (Stamford, Conn.), shares her secrets to balancing the books and sports.

Going into freshman year, I quickly realized that high school requires a lot more responsibility and commitment than middle school. For me, it meant shifting from my four-hours-per-week soccer schedule to almost 10 hours a week, more than double the practice and games. No matter what level — varsity, junior varsity, or freshman -- sports take up a lot of our time. And although I'd rather be outside playing soccer or lacrosse than studying for a math test the next day, school does come first.

With a bigger workload and less free time, here are my tricks to balancing school and sports:

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Courtesy of Hannah Hicks/ESPNHSHannah Hicks is a freshman lacrosse and tennis player at King Low Heywood Thomas (Stamford, Conn.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
1. Use a planner/calendar: I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Plan out everything from what time you take a shower to when you start your science homework. This is key to knowing how much time you have to do your homework, which can help you finish it faster.

2. Take advantage of your study halls and free periods: Sure, we would all rather be talking to our friends and doing other things while we have free time in school, but doing all your homework in school is usually easier than doing it at home. You have most of your teachers there to ask for help, and that gives you more time to chill and relax at home after sports.

3. Check your team schedule: Most schools say on their website when all the teams’ games are, and if they are home or away. If the games times aren't listed, I always like to check with my coach. When you have a game, you'll most likely get home later, so it is good to know beforehand that you won't have as much homework time.

High school isn't all balancing both sports and homework. You need to make sure that you also make time for friends and family, and, most important, yourself. If you've done three hours of homework already, give it a rest and watch your favorite TV show or kick around a soccer ball outside. Being well-organized and knowing your schedule ahead of time is hugely beneficial to your experience in high school.

Entering high school is stressful enough, but if you follow these steps I guarantee a less stressful experience.

All-Star Spotlight: A moving movie speech

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
7:09
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Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Samantha Dubreuil, a sophomore cheerleader at East Lyme (Conn.), shares her favorite motivational speech.

When we athletes get ready for our next big competition, there are usually several steps of preparation. Whether your team participates in pep talks, inspirational speeches or team bonding exercises, these activities eventually become exciting traditions that can lead your team to success.

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Courtesy of Samantha Dubreuil/ESPNHSSamantha Dubreuil is a sophomore cheerleader at East Lyme (Conn.) and a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.
Being part of an All Star cheer gym, my team has a variety of traditions we partake in together before a competition. At the practice before, we listen to Al Pacino’s speech “Peace by Inches” from the movie “Any Given Sunday.” Our coach sits us on the floor in front of the stereo and plays it for us, and we quietly take in what Pacino is saying. His speech talks about inches, and how the littlest error in sports can make a big difference in the outcome (and in life). A few days later, at the competition, we listen to the speech again before performing. After listening to it, we go into warm-ups with a better mindset.

Here is my favorite part of the “Peace by Inches” speech:

“Now I can’t make you do it. You got to look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes! Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you. You’re gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you’re gonna
do the same for him!”


I think this is meaningful because on a team you have to trust that all of your teammates will put in as much effort as you are giving. I really relate to these words because on my team, each person has her own job to accomplish throughout the routine. The flier has to have trust in her bases, and the bases have to trust that their flier will do what she has to do while in the air. Every time I listen to this speech it reminds me how much my team means to me, and how over the years they have become family.

All-Star Spotlight: Waking up is hard to do

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
2:15
PM ET
Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Meredith Rizzo, a junior track and cross country star at Bronxville (N.Y.), kicks things off.

Agree or Disagree: The worst part of the day is waking up in the morning.

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Courtesy of Meredith Rizzo/ESPNHSMeredith Rizzo of Bronxville (N.Y.) runs track and cross country and is a member of the ESPNHS All-Star team.

For me, the sound of an alarm clock is the most dreadful moment. You're drowsy, the room is cold, the sheets feel perfect, the bed is pure cozy and warm, and moving just doesn't seem like an option.

It also doesn't help that you probably got only a few hours of sleep. Teachers love to tell you have to go to bed early and get 9 hours of sleep every night. Very funny. They say this and then give a boatload of homework. So to combat this dreadful moment of the day, over the years I have mastered a simple three-step wake-up recipe that I would like to share.

1. The alarm system. I like to take my time in the morning to get ready, so I set three alarms. The first, on my alarm clock, goes off 1 hour and fifteen minutes before school starts. This helps me start to wake up, but not actually get up. It gives me time to stay in bed for those precious minutes before embracing the cold morning. Second, I requested a sibling alarm. My sister, the early bird in our family, is usually up before me, so I asked her to get me up one hour before school (assuming I’m still in bed). If all else fails, my third alarm, my phone, goes off 1 hour before school.

Now don’t think I’m crazy. Not everyone needs three alarms. But it's sure safe to have reliable backups. No one likes those mornings when you wake up and only have 15 minutes to get ready. We've all been there!

2. Eat up. Some people prefer not eat breakfast because they're not hungry, they wake up late, or they just plain don’t like breakfast food. Trust me on this one. We athletes need it. Not only does it give us energy, but if I don’t get enough breakfast, I get distracted during class by my stomach’s loud moans and groans. If I’m running late, I at least grab a granola bar to munch on my way to school. I’m also a tea junkie and have a mug of English Breakfast every morning. I prefer tea over coffee because it has less caffeine and gives me the perfect boost that I need. If I had coffee and its high caffeine, I would be bouncing off the walls during my first class and asleep by the second!

3. Last, but not least, music!A good, upbeat morning playlist puts me in such a good mood. Sometimes, if the song is right (which is likely all of them) I go ahead and have a mini dance party with myself in my room. It’s a great stress reliever. I even sing, though I don’t sound very good. It’s a nice way to clear my head for a few minutes by focusing on something other than school, and it gives me that final boost to wake me up before I hit the books.

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