Perspective: (Junior) Varsity

My experience transitioning from JV to varsity athletics


Photo by Celeste Bates


I always looked forward to becoming a varsity athlete. I looked forward to that letter for my jacket, that status of being the best at the school, the field priority, the team traditions, the nice uniforms. Now I am a varsity athlete. Now I have that letter, that status, that priority, those traditions, and a new uniform with a P on the front and my last name on the back. I have all that I hoped for, and yet, it’s not quite what I expected.

On the baseball team at practice, varsity deposits their bags and bats in the home dugout, and JV drops their equipment in the visiting dugout. The dugouts offer an analogy for the expectations of players on varsity and JV, respectively. 

On the third baseline lies the away dugout, with its uneven concrete floors, chain link fence and cold steel bench. It’s rough and unpolished—much like the baseball that occurs at the JV level. In JV games, players are rough and unpolished, merely developing freshman and sophomores who have the fundamentals down but offer nothing spectacular, nothing flashy. 

Just about 120 feet away from the JV dugout is the varsity dugout. Paly spared no expense when constructing this dugout—there are rubber mats on the floor to protect players’ cleats, and a padded railing for players to lean over while spectating their teammates. There is a comfortable wooden bench, and cubbies up above to stow shoes and helmets. The varsity dugout is clean, polished and refined, just like the play on varsity.

While I was on JV, I enjoyed these lowered expectations as I felt like I could really flourish and bloom as a baseball player. Now that I’m on varsity, I feel limited by what’s expected of me. Not to say that our coaches expect perfection—that’s hardly the case. Yet I feel as though mistakes are the best way to learn, and some mistakes and imperfections that were perfectly fine to commit on JV are simply unacceptable in the first base dugout.

However, this may end up just making myself and my teammates better. How else can we improve if there are not high expectations, pushing us to success? How else can we improve if there isn’t a more elevated style of play? 

Maybe this is all a blessing in disguise. On JV I had become complacent. I met the expectations and nothing more was expected of me. Thus, my progression as a player stalled. At practice everyday there was no drive to get better, for what I was doing at the moment was good enough. I would go through the motions, and I would be rewarded through my coaches’ affirmations. I had no desire to improve. 

So really at the end of the day, things are simply different. They aren’t necessarily good, nor bad—just different. What I’ve come to realize is that when you ignore the uniforms and the dugouts, the transition from JV to varsity is a small change in the grand scheme of things. And, through my 17 years of living and playing baseball, I’d like to think that I’ve gotten at least half-decent at coping with change.