Pressure can get the best of atheltes at all levels

Eric Fishbin, Sports Editor

Winning is a priority in professional sports. And apparently, high school athletics place as much of an emphasis on it as professional sports do. Recently in Tennessee, two high school basketball teams who had already clinched the playoffs were competing for seeding.

The team that won the game would play the best team in the region, and most likely lose.  Instead of putting effort in and trying to win, both teams set out to lose the game.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association executive director Bernard Childress said, “We started getting emails and calls saying that no one was trying to win the game, actually,  that two teams were trying to lose the game.”

The news of this mockery reached the peaks of the sports world.  As punishment, the Riverdale High School and Smryna High School faced probation for the remainder of the season and a $1,500 fine.

It is likely that professional sports influenced these teams into tanking. In the world of professional sports, spectators commonly see NBA and NFL teams setting out to lose games in order to get a better draft pick.

When tanking happens in professional sports, nobody wins in the short term.  Fans are upset because they wasted money on watching their favorite teams lose on purpose, and the balance of the leagues are thrown off. Although the strategic reasons are understandable, this sets a poor example for the global sporting community.

Pressure is certainly a reason for the winning drive amongst athletes.  Constant expectations, along with self-driven motivation, contribute to the pressure the athletes face. 26-year-old former Milwaukee Bucks first round pick Larry Sanders recently decided to take time off from basketball.

He requested and received a buyout from the Bucks so that he could work on his mental stability and spend time with his family.  Recently, Mr. Sanders was treated in Rogers Memorial Hospital for anxiety and depression.  Despite a lucrative contract for four years at $44 million, and a dream job as a professional athlete, the expectations and pressure of deeply affected Sanders.

Sanders said in his Players’ Tribune piece “Don’t Forget the And,” “I love basketball and I’ll always be playing basketball but for it to be consuming so much of my life and time right now, it’s not there for me, it’s not that worth it.  If I get to the point to where I feel I am capable of playing basketball again I will.”

He realizes that some things are not worth the consequences.

At the collegiate level, incoming freshmen have to adjust to their new lifestyle at a rapid pace.  In high school, they had to be students first and athletes second, which prevented them from performing athletically at the collegiate level.

Now, ESPN will be saying their names, and how they are good or not good enough to make it.  In an effort to ease the adjustment, the Big Ten conference is considering implementing a freshman ineligibility rule.

This would allow the incoming freshman basketball and football players time to focus on school, helping them balance education with athletics.  Although it is unlikely that all five power conferences will agree to this, the fact that the idea exists demonstrates the increasing importance of education to the programs and the importance of allowing freshmen the opportunity to lessen the pressure.  The commissioner of the Big Ten is calling it a “year of readiness.”

Athletes at Schreiber are compelled by the competitiveness and success associated with sports, forcing them to draw away from academics.

“The pressure and expectations with playing a high school sport has a huge impact because I am not only playing for myself and my teammates, I am playing for an entire town when I put on the Port Washington jersey,” said junior Daniel Ernst.  “The expectations of winning and the competitiveness is a lot more appealing then focusing on school work.”

It was not so long ago that Schreiber hosted former NBA player Chris Herren, who discussed this problem as related to addiction.  He mentioned that it was the high pressure and expectations associated with sports that led him down the road to drug use. This can become an issue for many stressed-out high school sports teams.

Balancing a varsity sport with high level classes is a challenge that many high school students face. Students’ grades can suffer during a season when they are playing a sport. These low grades, as well as the pressure to excel at their sport, can contribute to high school athletes’ high stress levels. Different people decide to deal with pressure in varying ways.  We have seen players at the professional level resort to drugs, and at the high school level, prioritizing athletics over academics.