Middle school rivalries in Palo Alto
February 28, 2011
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Jordan, Jane Lathrop Stanford and Terman. Most of us came from one of these middle schools. When we competed against each other then, the last thing on our minds was that these opponents would soon be our teammates. But now our time in middle school has come and gone, and the schools have combined into two high schools. Opponents are teammates and old teammates are now opponents. But whenever high school games come around, there is a nagging question: Will our team win? Do we have the best athletes with the best background and knowledge of the sport? In other words, which middle school is the most athletic?
In Palo Alto, there are three large public middle schools, and several other smaller private ones. These filter into two main high schools, Gunn and Paly, as well as a few smaller private high schools. The Viking wondered if any certain middle school created the most high-performing athletes, and if so, why this was, as well as my opinion and experience as an athlete from the least athletic middle school.
Out of 14 total varsity student athletes on the Gunn boys’ basketball team, 5 went to JLS, 0 went to Jordan, 9 went to Terman, and 0 went to a different middle school.
Out of 12 total varsity student athletes on the Paly boys’ basketball team, 2 went to JLS, 10 went to Jordan, 0 went to Terman, and 0 went to a different middle school.
Out of 11 total varsity student athletes on the Gunn girls’ basketball team, 2 went to JLS, 0 went to Jordan, 6 went to Terman, and 3 went to a different middle school.
Out of 11 total varsity student athletes on the Paly girls’ basketball team, 1 went to JLS, 9 went to Jordan, 0 went to Terman, and 1 went to a different middle school.
Out of 16 total varsity student athletes on the Gunn girls’ volleyball team, 4 went to JLS, 0 went to Jordan, 12 went to Terman, and 0 went to a different middle school.
Out of 12 total varsity student athletes on the Paly girls’ volleyball team, 2 went to JLS, 10 went to Jordan, 0 went to Terman, and 0 went to a different middle school.
Tally: 75 total
As expected, Gunn had mostly Terman athletes and Paly had mostly Jordan athletes. This happened mainly because the vast majority of Terman and Jordan students went to Gunn and Paly respectively, while JLS was split two-thirds and one-third respectively. I was very surprised that there are not more athletes from private middle schools or who came from out of town. This brings up another question of whether having the same team since middle school strengthens teams, or whether diversifying helps more. An example of both of these are the girls’ varsity teams, where Paly’s is nearly entirely Jordan students and Gunn’s is a mix of JLS, Terman and other. Also, the lack of JLS athletes surprised me, especially at Paly, but at Gunn as well. This could be because JLS students were crowded out by more athleticaly talented Terman and Jordan students, or because they no longer felt the desire to play if they were competing against those who had been their teammates. Yet another possibility is that the JLS athletes felt that because they would no longer be surrounded by as many people they knew, that they should focus on other aspects of school and life outside of sports.
As an athlete from JLS, I was nervous to play on teams where I didn’t know anyone else while they already were friends when I came to Paly. I chose to do individual sports where I could practice and play on my own. When I talk to my friends at Gunn and Paly who did the same or did team sports and are from JLS, we mostly shared the idea that it was strange to be competing against people we had formerly trained with. We knew each others’ weaknesses in sports, and felt that playing against someone who knew exactly how you play could be very frustrating. At the same time, it was fun to form new rivalries and learn to play differently to trick each other. Competing against each individual person became a different match, and boosted the competitive spirit immensely with none of the rival-school spirit. We tested each other to see if we had improved, had fixed our old mistakes, and also tested out new techniques for tricking opponents into messing up. And as for training, it is still fun to train with my friends even if they are my opponents. But it’s also fun to train with my Paly teammates, and we have more of a reason to try our hardest for our school.