Looking Back At The February 2019 Incoming Freshmen Fest

Jessica Lim, Editor-in-Chief

On February 13, Warren held one of their first 2019-2020 incoming freshmen events. Tables covered in alternating blue and yellow cloths manned by current Warren student representatives brought the school spirit to what was surely a warm and exciting welcome for eighth graders looking towards their future.

Following an opening presentation in the auditorium, for two hours the O’Plaine campus gym was filled with well over two hundred wide-eyed young teens and their families eager to sign up for Tennis and Football, FBLA and Science Olympiad, which were just a few of the dozens of clubs and sports there.

A relatively new approach, incoming freshmen fest allows for students to sign up for extracurriculars that are typically time/commitment-intensive and competitive, or require auditions or try outs. Regular freshmen fest hosts not only sports but all of the other activities at Warren like Motion Sickness dance club, Art Club, Astronomy Club, etc.

The O’Plaine Principal, Mrs. Bertola, shares her thoughts about this event: “I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase coaches and players here. We think it’s the best way to communicate, to hear first-hand from people, as opposed to our website and social media. Nothing beats face-to-face, when you can talk to and ask questions of the coaches and the players that maybe is not answered on the website or in the emails we send out. So I think it’s helpful to everybody that’s here. This is a good turnout!”

When asked about how beneficial this is to the current eighth graders, Mrs. Lonogro, the Assistant Athletic Director and Activities Director at WTHS, said, “This is a great intro to the things we have, just to get them into the building, and give them understanding about things like, how fall sports start before school starts. These are the things that incoming freshmen don’t know. This gets them to meet our sponsors and coaches, and if they come to summer camps, [the students] get comfort from the feeling of ‘Oh, I’ve seen that person before’. To have information about the summer camps and get themselves here before they’re actually on campus for school. And then there’s the activities fest we had at the beginning of the year that was actually the first time we had it here [at O’Plaine] during the school day. And then they’re already comfortable, like they’ve been here a couple of weeks, can take a deep breath, and be like, ‘Okay, I get it all. I’ve heard this once before. Now, I’ve met some people and I kind of understand clubs I want to be in or want to know more about.'”

Mrs. Lonogro said, activities fest is “a good start for [freshmen] before they learn the layout, where the announcements and screens are, instead of like today where they don’t really know what to do. Even now, we’re looking to make improvements for next year like having a map so we know exactly where each sports and activity is, or contact sheets so if people don’t have time they can still have all the coaches’ information in one place.”

In regards to setting up this event, Mrs. Belmont, the athletic director, commented that preparation “is not too extensive – we reach out to every coach and club sponsor and encourage them to be here. Getting information out to parents is so much easier now than it used to be.”

She joked, “All we needed to do was make signs and put them up!”

Considering that Warren has many feeder schools – Viking Middle, Woodland Middle, Milburn Middle – to name a few, Mrs. Belmont expressed that “tonight is a big part of getting these eighth graders involved.”

Girl’s Tennis and Boys Fresh/Soph Head Coach, Mr. DeSecki, who had a very busy table all night, also spared a moment to talk to us about the sport:

For people new to tennis, trying for the first time, he says he’s looking for those with “the ability to be coachable, and who have patience, because tennis is not something you can usually pick up after one or two lessons. It takes practice. So we look for kids who show potential, some athleticism, but are willing to learn and take tips on how to get better.”

When asked, “What are some of the things you find in your current student athletes that help them to do well in school and in their sports?” Coach DeSecki replied, “Gosh,” while laughing, “I don’t know how they do it. Tennis oftentimes has really high-achieving kids that are usually in honors and APs. They figure out how to balance between academics and their sport over time, from middle school and then into high school. What makes them successful at it, I don’t know, you’d have to ask them.”

About time commitment, Coach DeSecki said it “depends on how seriously they’re taking it. If they’re freshmen and sophomores playing varsity, most of those kids are playing in the winter and in the off-season.

But we also have kids who just do it for the fellowship of being on a team and being with other kids, and that’s totally fine. They can just play and have fun and work at it. It depends on their skill level and level of playing, but at the highest level, yeah, they’re playing all year round.”

Coach DeSecki added that for kids who don’t know whether they want to try out for a sport or unsure about what to do, “some of my best players that I have the best memories of had never picked up a tennis racket until the summer before their freshmen year.

Because they had patience, and coachability, and kept working at it, by the time they were seniors, they qualified for the IHSA state tournament. And they had some of their best memories playing high school tennis.

Kids who came their freshmen year so intimidated, feeling like they weren’t going to make it, they learned and those are some of the best kids that I’ve ever coached.”

Personally, as a senior looking back, it would have been nice to have this event coming into freshmen year, because it was challenging to get a hold of club leaders or know when things were going on or even what opportunities there were at school. It was all very word-of-mouth and dependent on asking upperclassmen. These introductory events are much more helpful and organized, and I’m glad that our administration is taking steps to make all of our school activities more accessible to students.