Are cuts from sports too extreme?

by Julia Lee, Sports Reporter
graphic by Caitlin Ang

Approaching the field for my first South sports tryout two months ago, I had no idea what to expect. Not only have I never played on a team with upperclassmen, but South was a new school with high standards for their players. I remember walking onto the field the first day of tryouts, immediately intimidated by the sea of unfamiliar faces. How could I compete with these girls who did “Maradonas” around their opponents and ran six-minute miles? 

Little did I know at the time, playing on the JV girls soccer team with sophomores would be a point of growth for me: not only did I advance my skills as an athlete and perpetually challenge myself, but the environment I was engulfed in helped me gain confidence and fostered healthy ambition. 

From field hockey in the fall to tennis in the spring, South offers a diverse range for students looking to get involved with team athletics. There are three levels to every sport — varsity, junior varsity (JV) and freshmen — with all freshmen guaranteed a spot on the freshman team.

I tried out for soccer this fall, and knowing that I would make a team no matter what boosted my confidence and encouraged me to try out. I gave it my all, intrigued by the possibility of earning a spot on a team with upperclassmen. When I made the JV team, I started to notice my increasing desire to improve and to work more intensely as the season went on. 

However, looking to the coming years, I’m worried by the possibility that I might get cut, thus being excluded from playing a sport I love. 

Despite the brutality of the cut system though, I believe maintaining this policy ultimately sustains South’s competitive spirit and is a necessary component given the number of athletes who try out every season. 

Cuts provide an incentive for athletes to not only fight to make the team, but also to work to earn a starting position. Boys varsity soccer coach Floyd Butler said that this policy promotes accountability and higher standards during practices. 

“It’s a vehicle for teaching students life skills, [whether it be] learning how to deal with disappointment, learning how to move on with your life and manage those things or to take it and use it as fuel for the next time,” he said. 

Likewise, sophomore June Kim, a player on the girls freshman soccer team last year, who did not make it into this year’s program, said she sees the merits of having cuts. 

“At some point, you have to come to realize that you can’t get into everything you want and you have to see what you’re best at and make something out of that,” she said. 

South’s policy on cuts is not uniform; some sports, such as cross country or alpine skiing, do not make cuts, but others, like soccer or volleyball, do not have the budget or facilities to provide all athletes the opportunity to participate; further, there is often a trade-off between the number of players on a team and the amount of playing time each gets, Butler said.

“Students may look forward to a new season, for any multitude of reasons, and despite making the team, they could earn limited or zero playing time,” he said. “Anywhere from seven to nine players may never see the pitch depending upon our situational needs.”

Butler said that the lack of playing-time can affect student-athletes’ mindsets.

“Players that do not earn enough playing-time tend to create challenges in the social dynamics of the squad. More specifically, players can grow disgruntled and start to sow the seeds of negativity that can infest the rest of the team.”
Taking all of these factors into account, I believe that implementing cuts uphold South’s healthiest student-athlete environment to thrive. In addition, having athletes on a team with similar skill levels can help with overall coordination and personal improvements.