In my short time at Country Day (I transferred in the middle of my sophomore year), I’ve had countless conversations with my peers regarding their curiosity about large public schools, like the one I previously attended: Rio Americano.

They ask a lot about upper-division sports, football games and large stadium crowds, but let me just say I think all of that is overrated.

I remember being anxious and excited for the whole “high-school experience” when I first started at Rio, but soon I learned that experience didn’t really exist. Our football games were on Saturday mornings, not those “Friday night lights” I’d seen in TV and movies. Instead of being motivated by the huge crowds at my rival varsity games, I was intimidated.

While I am playing, I would much rather look into the crowd and see a group of my supportive friends or young girls from the lower- and middle-school volleyball teams (like at SCDS), instead of a huge group of rowdy teenage boys who don’t even know my name (like at Rio).

I remember one time at a varsity volleyball game against our rival, El Camino, I passed the ball poorly, so we lost the point. Immediately the El Camino student section started cheering, “Who was that to? Who was that to?” and staring at me. I was already scared as one of the only underclassmen on the team, but now my confidence dropped even further. I don’t think I made another good play that game.

This would never happen at Country Day. Here the crowd is supportive and excited. Plus the other teams generally have good sportsmanship and are respectful. I enjoy this safe environment that supports the whole student-athlete: academics, athletics and sportsmanship.

I also appreciate the no-cut policy here. Many of my friends in sports at public schools couldn’t continue playing their sports because they were cut freshman year or because they were not able to make the JV or varsity teams after playing on the freshman team.

Even though Country Day doesn’t guarantee playing time, all players have equal opportunity in practice, which I know many of my peers at Rio would have greatly appreciated.

In addition, I could play only one sport while at Rio because it demanded so much time and the coaches were not very understanding or flexible. Because I took high-level classes, was a part of other  academic activities and clubs, and played competitive volleyball outside of school, I couldn’t play on any other teams.

According to P.E. teachers Michelle Myers and Bill Stainbrook, there are many benefits to student-athletes playing multiple sports. These include crossover muscle memory, better communication during sports and the classroom, great fitness and healthiness, more endorphins released by the brain (helpful for all aspects in adolescent development), exposure to different hobbies and interests and a lesser chance of burnout in an athlete’s primary sport.  

Country Day supports this, and obviously it is working. Many athletes play on both the varsity basketball and soccer teams, and both won section championships in their most recent seasons.  

Since coming from Rio, I’ve played on three sports teams and started on all three. Basketball helped improve my endurance and strength, and being a goalie on the soccer team bettered my reflexes and hand-eye coordination, both very helpful for my primary sport: volleyball.

In no way do I miss the Div. III athletics at Rio Americano, compared to the Div. VI at SCDS. And for those who are curious about or feel like they are missing out on a big-school athletics experience, don’t worry. You’re not missing much at all.

—By Alexa Mathisen

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