Star athletes face pressure to end last season on a high note

As postseason approaches for fall sports, top senior athletes cope with the annual pressure of performing well at state.

Julia Coacher and Gabby Delpleash

Now that league, followed by the postseason, is right around the corner to end fall sports, athletes and coaches are gearing up to perform their best. For school athletes who are known state-wide for their virtuosity on the field, court or course, preparation for state can come with stress from playing such an integral part of their team’s final ride.

As a school that currently holds four state titles for football, two titles for girls cross country, and one for girls golf, wrestling and boys track, it is necessary to mention that Mill Valley does not fall short in upholding their athletic program. However, the task of maintaining our school’s athletic program has many star athletes feeling overwhelmed come the postseason.

One student dealing with pressure of upholding high standards in school athletics is senior cross country runner Katie Schwartzkopf, a 2018 individual state champion and the 2018 recipient of the traveling Timmons award; an award given to the boy and girl who runs the top 5K time in the state of Kansas.

Schwarztkopf taught herself how to cope with stress by reminding herself to let go of perfection.

“I’ve definitely struggled with [upholding my own expectations] and it can take a while for athletes to learn how to cope,” Schwartzkopf said. “I have had to remind myself of how to run for myself and not worry about other people’s expectations. [While] having those high expectations can help me stay motivated, I try to remember to not get too down if I don’t meet my expectations.”

Similarly, senior football player Cody Moore faces pressure to succeed after coming off of back-to-back state championships.

“What the football team is doing right now is going to prepare us for the end of the year,” Moore said. “Everybody has the same expectations, we all just limit distractions and then focus on what we need to do. Winning a state championship [last year was a big accomplishment].”

Senior volleyball starter Brylee Peterson hopes to make her last games on the court  memorable and  understands what it takes to meet the expectations of her team.

“For this being my last chance to try and make it to state, I want to make it count,” Peterson said. “We have had a few bumps in the past before but this year we have a very strong team. I think we have a very good chance this year [at making state] as long as we all have the same mindset and all stay healthy.”

From a coach’s standpoint, head cross country coach Chris McAfee accentuates the importance of being gentle with yourself.

“We try to remind people that they’re human beings,” McAfee said. “As a human being there’s going to be mistakes and that’s the coolest thing: being able to accept that you’re going to make mistakes. We try to be as respectful of their time as we can and remind all of our runners that it’s okay to mess up.”

Grateful for the role McAfee has played in alleviating her stress, Schwartzkopf remembers that her performance at state does not define her.

“I just have to remember that everyone is going to love me and still want to be my friend and be my coach, no matter how I do,” Schwarzkopf said. “That definitely helps take the pressure of [competing] off of me. You just have to run for yourself and your teammates and try to have fun with the sport you love.”

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