There’s a lot of pressure in high school, especially when you are just beginning and starting at a new school. Many things run through your mind as you try to grasp at this new and scary experience. My first experience with high school and with the GA community was through football. This wasn’t the first time I had felt pressure to perform, to be liked by the team, to find my role as a player, or to show what kind of person I was, but still, this felt brand new to me.
The first week of preseason football, I remember the nerves, the insecurities, the expectations, the pressure. I remember on one particular day. It was hot, it was raining, and I was tired. I was in the team room in carey stadium and players started coming in, preparing themselves for the day of work, the grind. I saw this kid come in, hood up, sunglasses on, and a wawa bag in hand. In my head, I was like why is this kid wearing sunglasses? It’s cloudy and it’s raining. He was one of the last to dribble in, but he wasn’t late.
I didn’t expect anything from Santino. I thought he was just going to be another kid on the football team I knew. I didn’t think that over the next three years I would talk to him or hang out with him or that he would ever be such a good friend. I expected him to keep to himself, but I quickly learned, to my surprise, that he was not that kind of introvert I initially judged him to be, but rather, he was an outgoing, funny, weird, be-yourself type of kid. I definitely didn’t expect him to reach out to me or mentor me as he would. But again, to my surprise, after getting to know him and figuring out who he really was through interactions on the field and through his jokes, I started to look at this guy as a leader. I remember after one practice as we were packing up to leave, he said, “Yo Tim, if you need help with anything, just let me know.” I responded with something like, “Okay. Thanks, dude.” But most significantly, I remember feeling like I was accepted. Now, I know that it was just a couple of words and maybe I was just overreacting to this small gesture, but the fact that he said it really made me feel like I was a part of the team.
I had spent my last 8 years at two small, catholic schools where there wasn’t much interaction between different grades. We spent the most of our time with one class of 8 or 9 students which made each grade feel separated. So coming to GA, and meeting these Juniors and Seniors, observing the close bond they had with each other, I realized I wanted that. I wanted to be a part of this tight community. The more I got to know guys, like Tino, the more I felt like I was not just a part the team, but also a part of GA.
While I know he could definitely rub some people the wrong way and he could really get on some people’s nerves, ultimately, his actions as a teammate and as friend, not only made me feel connected to this tight knit community of teammates, coaches, and managers, but it additionally gave me a sense of comfort within the GA community which made the transition into high school much smoother. Just by being himself and offering a small expressions of guidance, Tino, along with some other teammates, enabled me to move ahead within my own life and relieve some of my fears about high school.
Furthermore, this small act would set the precedent for how I would try to treat my teammates and future incoming freshman. In addition, I’ve realized that it is a HUGE help to someone, if you just reach out and say something encouraging. It will not only enable them to be more comfortable around the team or our school, but will it also help them move forward into high school and feel like a part of the GA community.