When asked what I learned playing private high school sports, I immediately started to smile. My mind was flooded with a lot of amazing memories, great friends and coaches, different games, winning highs and losing lows, all of which shaped me to be the person I am today. I can’t write about all the things I learned playing private high school sports, so I broke it down into four main categories to reflect a few of the lessons learned, including to be respectful and a team player on (and off) the field, how to lose graciously, own up to my mistakes, and to put things into perspective.
Sportsmanship is the cornerstone of being a good high school athlete.Though at the time I may have been crushed after a tough loss, I learned that congratulating the opponent and being respectful is what sports is – and should be – about. I also learned that during a game, my team would only win if we got along on the field, encouraged each other and worked well together. This lesson holds true now in my current life, especially in my relationships with my family, friends and colleagues.
How to Lose Graciously
Athletics is not about winning or losing – it’s about competing, pushing yourself to your limits and enjoying the competition. If you work hard and give it your all on the field, there is absolutely no shame in losing. I was always taught that competing was the best part of sports. This is a great life lesson, also. We are not perfect; we will lose in life, but, because I played sports, I know that there is another game, and another day, for me to try again and improve.
To Own Up to My Mistakes
Mistakes will always happen in athletics, as in life. The best thing athletes can do is take responsibility for their mistakes, learn from them and try not to repeat them. The end goal for any athlete is to improve throughout the year. I’ve always believed that the sign of a successful season is becoming a better player than you were at the start of the season. If you can grow as an athlete during the season, then you are growing as a person, also. Owning up to your mistakes, in athletics and in life, is one of many ways you can show responsibility, maturity and self-reflection.
To Put Things into Perspective
Too many people focus on the wins and losses, being recruited, making the all-state teams, and how many goals they scored, when they should be focusing on the overall picture of athletics. Being a high school athlete teaches you more than how to win. It teaches you how to manage your time, how to work well with teammates and be supportive of each other, how to be a leader and how to be respectful of your opponent, teammates and coaches. Athletes, and parents especially, should keep in mind that a game is just a game, and most people’s sports careers will end after high school or college. So, instead of worrying about whether you will be named the MVP, you should try and enjoy every practice, game, win or loss, and be a good role model and leader – both on and off the field.
All the things I learned from playing private high school sports are because I had great coaches. My coaches helped me develop, not just an athlete, but as a person. They modeled the right behavior in a variety of situations, and always encouraged me to do my best. Whether we won or lost, they taught me that if I did my best and was a good sport, then I was a winner. The example they set gave me the tools I needed to be successful in life. I know if I am loving, respectful, treating others the way I want to be treated, and trying my best, then I am being the best person I can be.
Elizabeth Brodbeck Mercogliano ’94 is a math teacher for grades 3-4 at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, NJ. She played soccer, basketball and lacrosse when she was a student-athlete at Oak Knoll, where she was named all-state, all-conference and all-county in all three sports. She went on to play basketball and lacrosse at Lehigh University, where she earned her bachelor's in psychology and master's in education. She also coached varsity lacrosse at Oak Knoll from 2000 to 2013, earning numerous accolades, including being named Coach of the Year by The Star-Ledger in 2004 and ranked No. 16 in the United States by US Lacrosse Magazine in 2005.