By Maclaine Willett

Fans, food, and football. Camaraderie, community, and cookouts. You name it, sports bring it. If you want to partake in an activity that boosts your mental and physical health, play sports. If you want a new form of entertainment to watch and devote yourself to, pouring all of your loyalty into your favorite team, watch sports. Whether you want to be on the field or on the couch eating chips, cheering on the Red Sox on their way to the World Series, sports always have you covered. Ask anyone involved in sports—  they will tell you how important these activities are for the happiness of the population. This specifically pertains to students at NHS, who already have so much stress on their plates academically and need a refuge from the essays and calculus problems. 

A typical day for the average NHS student consists of waking up far too early for anyone’s comfort, rushing to get to school on time, spending 6-7 hours in stuffy classrooms learning new material that makes their brain twirl and their eyes go fuzzy, and dealing with social issues that arise from ridiculous high school drama. Don’t take this all the wrong way though, high school doesn’t always totally suck. It’s actually really fun and exciting, but there is always that heavyweight of stress from the school work that even the most bright and bubbly of students cannot completely lift off. So, after these long hours of studying, as worthy as they are for a teenager’s development into an adult, these students need an escape from all of the academics. 

Although many other extracurriculars are obviously worthwhile and should not be overlooked, sports are one that can include a wide variety of people. Teams are a diverse group of students and attract an even more diverse group of community members who enjoy watching these sporting events. Participating in sports also gives students the opportunity to meet new coaches who tend to be some of the biggest role models in a teenager’s life. This deep pool of the population allows for students to thrive, stringing together several different parts of the community. Take Nantucket for example. Where would we be without the Whalers teams for us to support and cheer on everyday? We would not be united. There would be no spirit; no common cause that people can come together for, uniting them with pride. 

Pride.

The one word I would use to describe what Nantucket High School sports bring to the community. Whaler pride, to be specific. And this pride does not go unnoticed. You see it when you are on the bleachers at a football game, on a late Friday night. Parents of players that graduated up to 10 years ago still take their seat on the same bleacher, eating the same buttery popcorn sold at the Booster Club shack, and chanting the same battle cries that they chanted when their student was attending NHS, maybe even playing for the team. There are retired players at almost all of the sporting events, watching the programs that they previously poured their hearts and souls into flourish and grow with every new generation. Their pride runs deep, and the generation in school right now will recognize the depth of their Whaler pride later on in life when they watch a field hockey or basketball game, on the field or court that they used to work and sweat on. That is Nantucket with sports. That is Nantucket with pride. 

Pertaining back to the idea of sports being this refuge for students in high school, students at NHS must participate in an extracurricular to take their minds off of school work after that 2:20 bell rings. And what better way to spend your time as a high school student than with your friends on a sports team, competing and enjoying each other’s company? The bond between teammates of any sport, no matter where or at what level, has to be acknowledged when vouching for the importance of sports. The relationships made between teammates are lifelong and inseparable. You lose, win, struggle, succeed, and compete together. You travel, complain about soreness, feel the nerves of a home game with a big crowd, and pant after sprints together. All of these sensations you experience from sports are experienced as a unit, and that’s what makes these team sports so special. I can honestly say that some of the teammates that I have had on sports teams are ones that I will never forget, and that truly taught me how to be a better teammate, leader, listener, and person. Only an athlete will understand the love you have for your team. And there is nothing that compares.

There is not only a love between teammates, there is also another very important relationship in team sports. This is the relationship between a player and a coach. And specifically on Nantucket, where the majority of these coaches are family friends or at least familiar faces to the players, these coaches impact the players greatly at the high school level. Speaking from experience, I have had coaches throughout my career that I will never forget and never stop appreciating, even during the excruciating moments when they continuously blow the whistle to run sprints. Because it is these moments shared with a coach, where the coach pushes your limits, that one can grow the most. Every coach that I have had has explained to me that they do not coach just to put together a winning team and put a banner up in the gym boasting our success. It is not the wins that these coaches actually care about, it is the people that the players are growing into every day of the sport. Every coach has expressed to me that they don’t want to become a factory pumping out professional athletes, they want to help us grow into good people, good people ready for whatever lies beyond high school. And these coaches do this by challenging us because they know we will be challenged in the future. We will be tested, contradicted, even beaten, and these coaches know this. So they prepare us for it. They prepare us for what’s to come in our futures. 

Aside from the stern and challenging side of a coach, I can also say that my coaches have not only been mentors for me as I grow into a young adult, but they have also been friends, companions, advice-givers, and comforters. I can honestly say that a coach, to an athlete, is someone that they can go to for almost anything, no matter what the issue may entail. No matter how many hours an athlete spends pouring out their hearts with a typical teenager’s woes, the coach will listen. I had a coach in Little League softball that I still, to this day, think of every time I write or speak on something regarding sports and the impact they have had on my character. This coach of mine is someone who I still see attending our games even though he coached us when we were in elementary school. He is still interested in not only our progress as softball players, but our lives and my personal well-being. And all coaches that players interact with will probably treat their relationship with their players with the same respect and care.

There is no denying the importance of sports here on Nantucket, they are the building blocks of our tight-knit community. Whether you may be playing these sports or just in the stands, cheering your fellow classmates on, NHS sports help students and the community to succeed in finding extracurricular interests and forming lifelong connections with teammates and coaches.

[This article was printed in the 11/16/21 issue of Veritas as an editorial. It’s upload to the website was delayed due to a mistake.]

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