Have Varsity Sports Become a Year-Long Commitment?

Varsity football began offseason conditioning in February, including lifting sessions in the weightroom.

by Dylan Sondike ‘24

A number of varsity sports at Sherwood and across MCPS have become a nearly year-round commitment for players on the teams. From offseason conditioning to summer leagues, varsity coaches use a variety of ways to prepare players for their seasons. Although such opportunities are technically voluntary, it is increasingly the norm that students who are on or hope to be on the team–will participate in team-organized activities that are outside of the regular season.
Offseason conditioning programs have been a key part of many varsity sports at Sherwood. Athletic Director Jason Woodward says that these workouts are beneficial, and he added that coaches are giving up their own time to have these conditioning programs.

“No complaints have been made to me that coaches are forcing those kids to go to workouts,” said Woodward. “I make it very clear to my coaches that we cannot mandate attendance to these workouts, and we can’t count it towards [a player] making the team or not making the team.”
Woodward said that a player missing offseason workouts potentially may hurt the relationship with a coach to some small extent, but if a player has the skills and abilities to make the team, then showing up to workouts will not matter. Woodward noted that there were more than 500 students who signed up for offseason conditioning workouts across all sports at Sherwood from June 1 through February 15. In basketball workouts alone, he said that 70-80 students showed up this past summer when only approximately 30 students total made the JV and varsity teams.
In addition to its season during the school year, the varsity basketball team plays in a summer league coached by Sherwood coaches against other teams in the DMV. In this summer league, however, the team can’t affiliate with Sherwood and must change their name and MCPS doesn’t fund or associate with any aspect of it, according to Woodward. Other organizations sponsor and fund the team with players not paying to participate.

Patrick Cilento, who was named two months ago as Sherwood’s new varsity football coach, said that he knows some of the players on the team have participated together on 7 on-7 teams and added that once this summer begins, Sherwood will form their team, and compete in several leagues and tournaments. Cilento also runs offseason workouts starting after winter break four days a week for just over an hour.

“There is a balance that must take place, to avoid fatigue and burnout,” said Cilento. “Typically after the season, the football team has 3-4 weeks off to rest their bodies. We follow the schedule that most colleges have to achieve our goals. The student-athletes also have built-in breaks such as spring break, and we give them a week off in the summer.”

Cilento is clear that varsity football requires nearly a year-round commitment for players to work out to enhance their performance on the field. “If they are not preparing for excellence, someone else is,” he said.

Boys lacrosse Coach Matthew Schneider has a similar approach to Cilento. Schneider explained that he knows their competition is staying ready and that working out in the offseason allows players and coaches to stay connected to each other and get more skills training.

According to Schneider, his staff held eight summer practices this past year, as well as voluntary conditioning workouts twice a week in the fall and winter. He coached a summer team that included varsity players, and knows that many of his players compete on club teams year-round and that parents have organized teams for players which aren’t coached by the Sherwood staff.
“I am entering my 8th season as head coach here, and I have seen the voluntary offseason participation levels increase every year,” said Schneider. “Many of our players got to play in a state championship game for the first time in Sherwood lacrosse history last spring. They want to return to that game and win it, so I am not surprised at the level of offseason participation we have seen lately.”