Small fish in big pond: Freshman develop skills throughout next for years

Kellen Smiley, Sports Writer

High school athletics are typically broken down into three levels: freshman, junior varsity (JV), and varsity. At Perry Meridian, that is no different. The freshman level is usually just that. A team of freshmen getting their athletic careers in high school going. Varsity typically includes the most promising players the school has to offer, regardless of their class, for each sport. The rest play on JV, sometimes due to not having the roster space on varsity.
However, this does not mean freshmen cannot participate on JV or even varsity. If the skill and drive is there, freshmen can make it onto either team.
“I think whether a freshman plays on the varsity is not the question,” coach Mike Armstrong explains. “I think the focus should be is the player over the next four years going to improve their skills, get stronger in the weight room, and become a positive leader of their team both in and out of the season.”
Armstrong, who has coached for 33 years at Perry Meridian, is the coach for girls varsity cross country as well as girls varsity basketball.
Armstrong comments that the nature and intensity of the sport are also factors in the Varsity lineup. For instance, in cross country, Armstrong says, there is typically at least one freshmen in the lineup, whereas basketball may not have any freshman due to the nature of the game.
Other times, it is about whether or not the individual is ready for varsity action, which is faster and much more difficult. Sometimes the inexperience against stiff competition is a big jump that can be overwhelming.
“In basketball, I usually like for our ninth graders to play some reserve basketball to get ‘their feet wet’ in high school and move up from there,” Armstrong says.
Basically, freshmen that make the team get a taste of some action off the bench while still gaining experience from the upperclassmen.
Armstrong coached Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Katie Douglas when she attended Perry Meridian. Douglas is a 5-time WNBA All-Star and has had many notable achievements in the sport.
Two other talented players, Jennifer DesJean and Laura Gaybrick, also played basketball at perry and excelled under Armstrong. Douglas started, while Desjean and Gaybrick played reserve as freshmen on the varsity squad, growing and flourishing throughout their high school careers.
Junior Savanna Pipes played basketball on the JV team her freshman year of high school.
“It was fun,” Pipes said. “It was nice to play up and better myself slowly.”
Despite being on a team with upperclassmen, Pipes never really felt nervous. Those friendships she made with the upper class men stand out as something that stuck with her and helped her along the journey.
“Any freshman that is in my position should know that it’s not scary or anything,” Pipes says. “It’s a good opportunity to better yourself as a player.”