Specialization in Sports

According to Bob Low, “Groton is about celebrating excellence through balance, not through specialization.” This sentence encapsulates what Groton School is all about. The school is committed to improving the lives of the students by building character. Ideally, all students should be involved in academics, community service, clubs, and multiple sports. The reality is that we do not live in an ideal world. ISL schools are rapidly improving their sports teams with “specialized athletes.”

Mr. Low has a very strong opinion on what Groton’s policy should be on allowing students to specialize in one sport. It is his strong belief that “we fight it as vigorously as we can.” In his eyes, specialization is something that needs to be avoided at the school. “[He] think[s] there is no better way to train for one’s primary sport than to play other sports and to compete, to be in pressure situations, to contribute to the school, and to wear a Groton jersey.” There is some truth in this. A great way to be ready for high pressure moments is to experience them. Nerves are nerves, and pressure is pressure, no matter whether the sport is on the field, the court, or the ice.

In my opinion, Groton students should be active in as many sports as they can in order to improve our sports programs. This past year our varsity squash team only had one upper classman who started his career on varsity. The other seven upper-schoolers all excelled in one or no sports, but hard work and good coaching enabled them to improve. In Mr. Low’s words, “Athletic sports is one of the most powerful community building, unifying, galvanizing elements, especially in residential communities.” Many of my best memories at Groton involve fan support at Groton sports. Every student who is returning this year will remember the thrilling Groton victory over Brooks’ football under the lights. Our first home match for varsity squash last year had a turnout of about a hundred people, who cheered us on through a devastating 3-4 loss to Phillips Exeter that included three 5-game matches. When I look back on it nearly a year later, I don’t remember the feeling of the loss nearly as well as I remember seeing all of those faces there supporting us. These are the moments that bring us together, that make us an “intimate community.”

The bottom line is that sport specialization should not be allowed. It goes against the whole purpose of Groton. We come here to expand as students, as people, and as athletes; this cannot be achieved if kids are allowed to dedicate all of their time to one sport. Playing more sports benefits the individual and the community. Sport specialization is something that needs to be avoided at the school. It weakens the sports that kids are no longer playing. If a baseball player is allowed to pitch bullpen during the winter months, it can improve his baseball abilities and therefore the team; however, it could also damage the basketball program if he happened to be a talented hoops player. The best way for students to better themselves as athletes and as people is through multisport participation. We may not be able to go poach prodigy athletes who will lead all of our sports to victory with ease, but we need to make sure that we do the best possible job with the gifted athletes we do have. After all, if we can’t be the most talented team in the league, we should be the hardest-working.

“Win, lose, or draw; supporting each other, pulling for each other, rooting for each other brings us together,” said Mr. Low. “It’s what Groton is all about, togetherness and spirit.”

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