Should the Current Preseason Format be Changed?

Three days prior to the start of a rigorous 2019-2020 school year at Lawrenceville, dedicated student-athletes arrived on campus with their respective teams to prepare for their long seasons ahead of them.

Three days prior to the start of a rigorous 2019-2020 school year at Lawrenceville, dedicated student-athletes arrived on campus with their respective teams to prepare for their long seasons ahead of them. Known as preseason, this period has grown shorter in recent years, and this past preseason lasted only three official days. Most teams practiced for three to four days, while the football team practiced for two weeks. Just like football’s longer preseason, I believe a longer preseason fosters greater team chemistry and better prepares teams for the hectic nine-week schedule in the Fall Term.

Lawrenceville strives to be the best version of itself in the classroom as well as on the sports fields, so naturally, the School should make the most of all opportunities to improve its sports teams. A productive preseason is a vital component of any successful fall varsity team. First, teams need to form its rosters, but also need to build team chemistry and instill a good work ethic that sets the foundation for upcoming games. Many Lawrenceville’s winter and spring teams take time off from spring or winter break for a trip out-of-state to kickstart team bonding and the selection process. These trips allow teammates to spend much, if not all, of their time together and establish leaders within their groups. This unity is difficult to match during fall preseason because everything takes place at Lawrenceville. Teams do not necessarily need to spend a lot of free time among each other and many students are still preoccupied with finishing their summer reading or final preparations for standardized testing. A weeklong preseason would be much more effective if it were to take place outside of New Jersey. While it may be unrealistic to have trips for every fall team, a viable option could be to have teams go on trips every two years. Not only is practice critical for a team’s success, but also opportunities to bond off the field is equally important and should be made available to student athletes. Not only would extending preseason allow for fall sports teams to have successful seasons, but also orienting the team’s preparation towards specific goals would be beneficial. Establishing a team strategy is pivotal to teams’ performances, yet it is rare to see a student sit in a classroom for any other purpose other than to learn about their courses. Developing a strategy makes each role on the team clear to the players and allows the team to adhere to a gameplan that would make the playstyle unique and difficult to counter. Furthermore, planning the preseason to involve friendly games against teams in the area would give teams a glimpse of solid competition before its season openers. Having to rely upon the intrasquad competition to prepare for the season can often lead to misconceptions of how strong or weak the team really is before its first game. With games against other teams, the program can not only assess potential varsity candidates, but also build a cohesion that can only be attained through spending time with the team. These delusions can be avoided by the incorporation of mutually beneficial preseason games with nearby schools that are willing to compete against Lawrenceville.

That being said since Lawrenceville is a boarding school, there are limitations on a student's ability to attend a longer preseason, not to mention the importance of having a restful summer break spent with family. Asking all the student-athletes to lose a significant portion of their summer appears unreasonable, especially at a boarding school. However, student-athletes are driven by their will to succeed in both venues: around the Harkness table and the playing field. In order to surpass some of Lawrenceville’s local competitors who play together all summer and occasionally all year long, Lawrenceville needs to adjust its preparation to take on these schools, and any dedicated Lawrentian athlete would surely be willing to make such a sacrifice. Lastly, many public schools and European schools only have six to eight weeks of break which makes the 12-week hiatus of a Lawrentian appear awfully long. So, why not tone down the summer break by a couple of weeks for those willing to give up their time to reconvene with friends and try to bring back some glory to Lawrenceville’s dwindling fall sports programs?

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