Increased pressure, decreased fun?

Athletes toe the line between competition and fun.


Greg Artman

Lydia Harms defends a crease-roll during the Cats’ game against Clackamas. Harms is a versatile player for the Cats, as she plays defense, midfield, and attack.

Let me paint a picture for you: a low-hanging sun casts its orange glow upon a high school football stadium; a summer-esque warmth permeates your thin uniform. You stand on the edge of the field, the tips of your cleats brushing the thick boundary lines. Your lacrosse stick hangs low out of your right hand; your protective goggles lay flat against your brow. 

Sports are the most prevalent extracurricular: soccer, volleyball, football, basketball, baseball, softball, tennis–to name but a few. However, if you look fifty years, thirty, or even twenty years into the past, the role that sports play in a student’s life has changed exponentially. 

If I were to elaborate on the lacrosse player: Her shoulders are thrown back to hide the insecurities swirling in her head. Her palms are clammy; her stomach churns. An invisible weight lays heavy on her shoulders, pushes in on her chest, locks her limbs. 

These days sports have become less of an outlet for students and more like a full-time job. Kellen Rapp and Lydia Harms are lacrosse players at Wilsonville High School. 

Kellen Rapp is a 10th grader who, despite being one of the best players during the 2021 season, didn’t play for the boys lacrosse team this year: “I quit lacrosse because I have felt burnt out and lost a passion for playing. Playing the same thing for years can get repetitive and lose the fire for the game.” 

Rapp played for Lacrosse Northwest, aka “the Rippers,” and participated in both the winter and summer club sessions–added up over the course of four years, Rapp has played 7 club seasons alone, without regard to his freshman high school season.

While playing with the Rippers, Rapp had at least two practices per week: “The first was on Sundays, which are two hours–and are field training and running through plays and more live game scenarios. The second was on Tuesdays, which is a more specific breakdown of a skill as well as watching film. Those were an hour and a half.” In addition to the two set practices, the team would have additional two-hour field practices during the weeks leading up to tournaments. 

Outside of specific team training, Rapp played on his own or with friends. It was at these times that Rapp had more fun, as they practiced shooting, or played wall ball. 

But this fun slowly became less and less what lacrosse was all about–over time, Rapp became aware of certain off-field politics: “Such as good friends transferring to play for different schools and at the end of the day that’s why I’m out there. It’s to be with my friends.”

Rapp plays lacrosse to foster relationships and have fun, but what about players who play for the love of the game? 

Lydia Harms has had her fair share of hardships. She was born in Ethiopia, where she lived until being adopted by the Harms family in Oregon. Harms has played club lacrosse for many years–two years with Tenacity Lacrosse and four years with the Rippers. 

During the years Harms played club, she traveled to California, Utah, and Washington whilst playing in various competitive tournaments–a competitiveness that Harms believes was an influential factor in her withdrawal from playing club. 

When Harm’s team would lose, “It went straight to my head. It went straight to ‘it’s my fault.’” Harms’s mental health suffered a sharp decline, a decline that led to her enrolling in military school, until she inevitably returned to Wilsonville. 

Now, Harms is able to see lacrosse as it truly is: “At the end of the day the sport is the sport. And you’re the one playing. I needed to take some time off for myself and it was the best thing I could do. Returning now has been the best opportunity for me.”

Back and more inspired than ever, Harms has been focused on making up for lost time. She trains by herself, with a professional trainer, and even employs her dad to videotape games. She truly has discovered a love for the game within herself. “It is something that I want to pursue in college, and I put in the most work I can,” Harms explained. 

However, the heart wrenching piece of Harms’ lacrosse journey was just this past year when her plans to play club for the Rippers hit a snag. 

I put all of this hard work in, and I can’t play because it is $5,000.

— Lydia Harms


Harms attended tryouts and made the club’s top team, but when her family examined the cost–well–they realized their daughter would not be able to participate: “I made the highest level of the team. I knew that I could be that good to play. I could’ve made the best out there. But I had to resign because it was simply out of my budget.” Understandably, Harms felt frustrated at the situation, and wished the coaches understood lacrosse players are “not all made of money.”

With specific regards to lacrosse, which is a growing sport in the Pacific Northwest, high school and club games are completely different worlds, and despite Harms’s love for the sport, her family couldn’t make that sort of investment: “I put all of this hard work in, and I can’t play because it is $5,000.”

On the one hand, Kellen Rapp’s love for the game was stamped out by politics and job-like commitment. On the other hand, Lydia Harms’s love for the game was shut down because of her family’s economic situation. Both players battled similar pressures and stressors whilst playing that impacted the feel of the game.

So I implore you to look within your sports teams–no matter what level, no matter what team–and determine what fuels them, whether that be money, or fear, or pride, or grit? 

It’s time to reconsider what sports truly are: an extracurricular.