We all know the Harry Potter series, and most are familiar with the beginning of the school year at Hogwarts when new students find themselves placed in houses like Gryffindor or Slytherin with all the attending alliances and associations, reputations and personalities. The “Sorting Hat” places the new students at Hogwarts. The choosing is not their own. And in some way a similar process has played out across Proctor this week as afternoon team activities ramp up and coaches work towards roster decisions. And now, at the end of the week, cuts have been made, and teams have started to coalesce. Roles have been determined. It's not quite the Sorting Hat, but it can feel that way.
It’s a tricky time on campus. It’s a time when identity and sense of self can be buffeted. It’s a time when players, and sometimes parents, can feel intense disappointment (or elation) depending on the tryout outcome. It’s a time when the reason for sports can become obfuscated by the tribal identity and desire to be on that team. To have that identity. Sense of belonging is important for our students, and we know that they need their groups and the support and comfort that comes with being a part of a group. We all do. But sometimes, as often happens in life, events fail to neatly line up with aspirations.
What to do? This is the question that many of the students who have experienced disappointment after a tryout are asking. Quit? It’s an option, but not a recommended one. Sulk? Never a good tactical response. Wail at the injustices? I’ve never seen that one change a decision. Perhaps it’s better to go back to the reason for sports in the first place. At its foundation, it’s never about the jacket or the “letter”, the fandom (the spectacle of collegiate or professional sports notwithstanding) or the fame. So what is it about?
An opportunity to see the value of collaborative effort? We think so. A chance to learn about goal setting and the steady work and commitment it takes to attain success? Yes. A platform to reveal the levels of the game and thus, perhaps, reveal something about the levels of life’s game? Undoubtedly. But it’s also about finding space in the hurtling momentum of adolescence to experience the simple delight of play and movement, which is also an essential lesson to carry forward into life. The wonderful potential of sports is that these lessons, all of them, can be found irrespective of whether the sorting hat has placed one on JV2 or Varsity.
It’s important to remember this at the end of a week when so much “sorting” plays out across campus.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School