High-SchoolGirl: Team chemistry

All-Star Spotlight: Go ahead and motivate

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
2:42
PM ET
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.

high school
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: Teammates turn into family

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
11:10
AM ET
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.

high school
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.

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