Student athletes: Life after high school

Whether it’s being nominated for the state of Maine’s Most Valuable Player for hockey, making it to the Super Bowl in Division 1 high school football, or winning the 100-meter dash at New England’s track championships there is no better feeling than playing for your high school team.

Nothing is like being a high school athlete according to Rodney Thomas, Jaquan Harris and Parker Cowand, who are student athletes at Framingham State University.

“By far my best memory was making it to the Super Bowl and winning our playoff game, the first one. We played Weymouth [on the road] in the snow and smacked them 33-7 and they all thought we were gonna lose because last year we were the first team to not make the playoffs in like 30 years. We had the number one defense in the state and our offensive line was all seniors,” Thomas said.

Cowland said, “My best memory of soccer goes back to the Western Conference State semifinals, when we had played our best game of the year.”

As Cowand reflected on his high school career, he recounted the four years of being a two-sport athlete in soccer and hockey. “Out of my four years of playing soccer, our team had lost only a total of five games. But we could never win in the playoffs, we lost only one total regular season game.”

Cowand reminisced about his senior MVP caliber season when he had 40 points in an 18-game hockey season, this equivalent to averaging approximately two goals a game, two assists a game or an assist and a goal in each game of the season.

Leaving high school sports can be difficult for some athletes because that can be considered their prime. “If I could go back and play another high school game I probably would, but I’ve gotten the opportunity to continue my athletic career. Maybe down the road I’ll start to miss it a little more”, Cowand said. 

“Not much has changed, I miss high school sports a lot, I miss playing [with] people you grew up with. You [can’t] take it for granted while you’re playing, because you’ll never play where you’re from and rep your city and know everyone around you,” Cowand said.

Playing for your hometown is a common theme among former high school athletes, whether you’re praised for playing for it or written off. “Our team was doubted before we even got to high school, so playing with that chip always made us want to play harder,” Thomas said.

In Brockton, Thomas’ hometown every student in 9th through 12th grade only had one choice for a public school, Brockton High School. “We’ve always been known for our sports, but our class was told that we were the weak class and that we were never going to win anything,” said Thomas.

Thomas was a two-sport athlete in football and indoor track and field at Brockton High School.

When Thomas reminisced of his freshman year of football all he could think about is the doubters and how they lost against every team they played. “We couldn’t beat anybody, all of our best players were moved to varsity and junior varsity early so our freshmen team was awful. We were getting blown out even by the bad teams”, Thomas said.

Brockton High School had looked to be built to win a championship but had fell short in 2013 against St. John’s prep. “Being outcoached and not understanding why the game plan wasn’t built for us to win was hard to accept after the game”, Thomas said.

Moving on from high school sports was difficult for Thomas, but now he plays football for Framingham State University and plays both guard positions. “The game is a lot faster than it was in high school, so I’m always trying to get better by lifting and working out”

Visiting high school after being in college can be difficult for some former athletes. “Going home always goes one of two ways for me. It’s either, they show me a lot of love or they act like they don’t know me. So, I always try to pass on to the ones playing, some tricks and techniques that I used and tell them to savor every game.” 

Playing three different sports not only kept Harris busy, but competitive as well. He played football, basketball and ran track, but football was his favorite. Whether it’s winning the coveted “Turkey Bowl” between Quincy and North Quincy, making it to the New England track championships as a freshman or having 19 points in his first varsity game as a sophomore in basketball,” Harris said.

“We had lost the “Turkey Bowl” every year going into our senior year, they were killin’ us. We refused to let them beat us all four years of our career. Freshmen year both teams were so good that there was plenty of Division 1 caliber players, I always said that they should merge the schools and become like a Brockton High School”, Harris said.

Playing varsity as a sophomore the competitive spirit drove him to constantly improve. “When I had my first varsity game against Hingham, I had 19 points, and crazy thing about it [was] my cousin who I didn’t even know at the time was my cousin, was doing a school visit for basketball and ended up playing with me the next year”, Harris said.

“By far the best thing about my track career was my personal records”, Harris said when reminiscing about his high school career. “In the 100 meter, I ran 10.6 seconds and in the 200 meter I ran 21.7 seconds, to qualify for divisionals you would need 11.5 seconds in high school for the 100 meter, but for states you needed 11.2 seconds. If you could win states and compete in all-states, you had to just flat out win the race or place in the top four.”

“Pulling my hamstring in the 200s for states is by far one of my worst memories of track. It was so bad because I had to run three races almost consecutively prior, so I had maybe 15 minutes of race total before having to run that fourth race. The problem wasn’t even that I pushed myself too hard, but that I maintained my top speed for so long”, said Harris.

Moving on from high school was difficult but he has continued playing college sports, playing cornerback and safety for Framingham State University.    

When asked about the most difficult part of moving on from high school sports Thomas said, “I feel like every former high school athlete always had to chase that [Championship] title but never got it for some reason.”

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