High school sports revive purity in youth athletics


Emma Swenson

MEDIA DAY: The 2022 girls’ varsity softball team flexes in a group photo.

Maggie Ward, Editor-in-Chief

The spring athletic season is finally upon us, and for high-level baseball and softball players, like myself, the next three months will be a blend of bus rides, purple and white, and “Go Trojans.” Most importantly, for the next three months, we play with one goal in mind: winning.

At least for the time being, gone is the fear of striking out when a D1 coach is watching, the 14-hour tournament days in the glaring sun, and the coach who tells me that all I’ll ever be in college is the bookkeeper. Unlike the toxic travel atmosphere, high school sports represent everything that is pure in youth athletics. 

It’s no secret that an elite travel team is the ultimate test of an athlete’s commitment to the sport. However, there’s a fine line between improving oneself as a player while still loving the game, and being overworked to a point of exhaustion. I think travel sports cross that line, and high school brings me back.

Although not everyone will agree, in high school the pressure is off. The goal is to get on base, move the runner, or long-term, make all-conference. Theoretically, that should always be the thought process. But, like any female athlete, I am all too familiar with overthinking a game I’ve been playing all my life. There is the constant reminder of which college is watching, or that I only have one at-bat to decide the rest of my athletic career. People always say baseball and softball are games of second chances, but during the recruiting process, coaches will tell you time and time again, that one at-bat will make or break you, and simply put, that is a lot of pressure.

The youth travel sports environment is poisoned with politics, status, and money moves. Parents invest thousands of dollars for their children to have an equal opportunity to play in front of a scout, regardless of skill level.

In high school, a good coach will put the best nine athletes on the field, and that’s that. Stepping into my very last season as a Trojan, I have been reminded of one simple thing: club sports can break a youth athlete, but high school sports will make their love for the game come alive again.