By Zalman Faltushanskiy, Staff Reporter
As freshmen begin the transition from middle school to high school, some of them are enhancing their experience by placing large pressure upon their shoulders. Jalen Dennis and Timber Terrell, freshmen, have made the varsity football and volleyball teams, respectively, beating out numerous other students for their spots. “It means a lot because I’ve been working [hard] in the offseason with all of the other [players],” Dennis said.
Dennis has been playing football for nine years in local youth leagues with the Prospect Heights/Wheeling Falcons and the Buffalo Grove Bills. His experience playing for those teams and with his brother, Amani Dennis, junior, has carried over to help him transition to the high school varsity level.
“It was a big transition, but because I’ve been playing with my brother and his friends, I transitioned quickly,” said Dennis. He also had to switch positions when coming on the varsity team. “I used the principles [I learned from my youth league] to transition from running back to wide receiver on offense and from cornerback to linebacker on defense,” said Dennis.
Terrell, meanwhile, has been playing volleyball for two years. Her experience includes playing in middle school in seventh and eighth grades, and she is expanding her playing experience this year with a local university feeder team. “I played in camps at a local club team, and I’m trying out for the Northwestern Junior Wildcats team this year,” said Terrell.
Her experience on the varsity team so far has been a learning one. In fact, her experience playing for the varsity team is helping her stand out in tryouts for the Northwestern Junior Wildcats. “Playing for a high school team has helped me get in shape [for the feeder team]. The varsity team helps me learn more about how to play and execute.” When trying out for the Northwestern feeder team, Terrell also has had to change positions, from a middle hitter to an outside hitter.
A transition in classes as well as in sport intensity has not made the conversion from middle to high school any easier. The change in classes adds an entirely new dimension to their lifestyles.
“Classes have been harder in high school. I have practice until six, and games until eight, so I stay up late [doing homework],” said Terrell. The threat of academic ineligibility also puts stress upon their shoulders.
When asked about academics, Dennis said, “I have to stay on task and on top of my grades because if I become ineligible, I let my coaches and teammates down.” However, both students have support systems in place to help them with the newfound workload: they both look to their fellow teammates for help.
Dennis explains, “My brother and other teammates have been helping me, too, because they went through the same experience.” For Terrell, “The team tells me what not to do and what to do, and gives me advice for high school.”
The transition from middle to high school can often be rocky. However, both Terrell and Dennis have found that from experience and hard work, positive results will follow, whether on the varsity team or a feeder team. And when they don’t, support systems are in place to help such high-performing newcomers transition into their new high school careers.