Learning to Love the Game

Middle School Sports
Leadership. Team Building. Sportsmanship. These are the building blocks of the Middle School athletics program at GCS.

Whether they have been coaching for one season or twenty, every Middle School coach has had the pleasure of watching a student progress from a novice to a leader and athlete. Athletic Director, Illi Armijos, remembers fondly the first time Class of 2016 graduate Ayanna Dublin walked onto the basketball court and did not know how to shoot a lay-up, “It became a team goal to help her score in a game,” she recalled. Dublin was a part of a back-to-back undefeated Middle School team and eventually the captain and MVP of a 2-time PSAA championship varsity team at GCS. She is now a freshman at Northeastern University where she received a scholarship for basketball.  

Every Middle School coach agrees, accolades are great, but the best part of the program is watching students grow, develop and mature. 
Team sports start in the sixth grade and students can choose from soccer, basketball, baseball and softball. In grades 7 and 8,the options expand to include volleyball, track & field and cross-country.  The focus in sixth grade is more introductory than competitive, centering on building positive experiences for all involved. Team practices and games are limited to twice a week in sixth grade and increase to three times a week in seventh and eighth grade. GCS hosts a basketball tournament for 7/8 teams.

In seventh and eighth grade, there is greater attention on competition and responsibility. “The main focus at the Middle School level is teaching students to become student-athletes,” Ms. Armijos stated, “At that age you want to teach them the fundamentals as well as skills to balance academics and athletics. and to enjoy themselves.”

Middle school coaches create drills for students that develop skills while teaching teamwork, which helps to create camaraderie among the athletes both on and off the field. “You want to create a fun and stress-free environment, but also use this time to prepare them for the next level, for JV and Varsity sports,” says Chante Stone, 7/8 Girls softball coach.

Lisa Quirk, who has been the 7/8 volleyball coach for the past 30 years with more than 10 undefeated seasons, says that watching students begin to work together and form a team is the most rewarding part of being a coach.
My proudest moments are when a girl gets her serve over the net for the first time in a game and all the others cheer for her,” she says, “I love how they all support one another.” 
Although winning takes a secondary role to fundamentals in Middle School, GCS remains competitive among peers schools. =n impressive display of banners honoring undefeated seasons line the gym walls for almost every middle school team sport offered.  The 7/8 Girls Softball team received back-to-back banners, and in the last three seasons held a record of 25-3.

Tivi Diveki, 7/8 Boys Soccer and Basketball coach for over 25 years, started his coaching career with a banner and aims to carry that spirit with him into each season since. “I want everyone to get a chance to play and to learn, but it’s about more than learning the game, we are teaching them to honor their commitments and to see the rewards of their work,” he said. He also noted the unique opportunity Middle School coaches have to get to know their students not just on the field or court but in the classroom as well.

Adding to the wall of banners, girls 7/8 Soccer received their first undefeated banner this season. The team won all seven of their games, allowing only four goals the entire season and scoring a remarkable 39 goals. In the past two seasons the team has had a 15-1 record, out-scoring opponents 72-9. 

The idea of success goes beyond the team record. According to Ms. Stone, “Success isn’t measured by a win or lose, we want them to love the game.” While some of our student athletes practice with outside sport clubs, most GCS students pick up a sport for the first time in sixth grade. “When you have a kid join who’s never played before, the learning curve is huge,” she added, “So to have them excel as a part of an undefeated team, then go on to play at the high school level and have continued success is a highlight for me as a coach.”