Peak of Competition – High School Sports Rivalries

Steven Moore, Staff Writer

One of the most pivotal aspects of any sports season are rivalry games. These games always have the most intense environments, biggest crowds, and highest stakes. They are make or break moments in a lot of scenarios and they bring the highest level of competitiveness out of athletes. In high school sports, rivalry games play a big part in shaping a season for a team. They can either provide a huge momentum and confidence boost with a win, but with a loss, they can sometimes cause a setback. Playing basketball and baseball throughout high school has shown me how fun these games are to play in, especially when you have a big fan base there with all your friends to support.

At Issaquah, our most well known rival is Skyline. For years and years, the Skyline-Issaquah rivalry has been one of the best across the KingCo conference. When my sister graduated from Issaquah in 2008, I attended the KingCo conference championship football game with my family, and that environment is one that I remember vividly even at such a young age. According to the Seattle Times, there were 4,200 people in attendance that day at Issaquah High School. Although the game was a blowout with Skyline winning 38-0, the environment itself was cool to be a part of and the stadium was electric all night. 

This year as a senior, some of my most memorable moments playing basketball were made this season in our rivalry games. For basketball, we consider Mount Si and Skyline our biggest rivals: Skyline because of the history, and Mount Si because they have always been one of the better teams in the state for as long as I have been at Issaquah. After my junior season getting cut short because of COVID-19, having the fans back in the building made certain games a lot more fun. Being in the starting lineup in all four of our rivalry games this season made it extra special for me and these are moments that I will never forget. 

These contests and the history behind them can inspire the best in athletes and teams, and bring communities together in shared enthusiasm like few other events can. The uniqueness of rivalry games is a specific feeling that all athletes can appreciate. Senior Dom Giustino says, “I like the high intensity that rivalry baseball games bring, especially when I am pitching.” For a lot of athletes, that extra rush in these big games provides a boost in confidence and allows the athlete to focus harder in pressure situations. According to the Daily American, athletes also “push themselves to compete at a higher level in a community push for school pride.” Junior Samantha Montroth also adds, “I put in extra work the week of rivalry games because I know how important it is to me and my team.” Not only is the pressure on to perform for your community, but there is also a feeling of pressure within the team to do well for one another, a little more so than in any other game during the season. There is always a little extra motivation to practice harder and get as many repetitions as possible the week of a rivalry matchup as well.

On a more overarching view, an article by At Your Own Risk Sports also shares its ideas on the benefits of playing a sport in high school stating, “People who played competitive sports in high school demonstrate more confidence, leadership and self-respect.” This is important for a lot of people to realize because ultra competitive student athletes and parents tend to get caught up in the specific sport itself, and things such as performance get people bottled up in a selfish mindset. In reality, playing a sport in high school benefits you more down the road than it does in the time playing your sport. Important things such as leadership skills, communication, and a sense of morality can all be developed over the course of a sports season. Sports play a true mentoring role in some people’s lives. 

In rivalry contests, it is important to stay as calm and relaxed as possible. It will feel like the pressure is on at all times to come through for your team. Sophomore Carter Debreuil says, “It is easy to get nervous in big games throughout the season especially with a lot of people in attendance.” Debreuil is a two-sport varsity athlete as a sophomore at Issaquah, and he earned himself a starting spot on the basketball team in the middle of the season. As a younger athlete, you will tend to feel more pressure than usual because of the age and experience factors. Debreuil adds, “I was nervous starting in our Skyline game, but once game action began, I was locked in. Once I got a couple shots up, I was more relaxed and played at my own pace.” It is very meaningful for athletes to stay focused throughout these contests and to not let anything distract them, whether that be things such as nerves or larger crowds.

More positively, there is always fun in participating in these big moments. Freshman Shawn Iglesias says, “I got to swing varsity for football and getting a couple snaps on the team as a freshman was special.” It is meaningful moments like this that make high school sports exciting and memorable. The overall importance of them being to compete at a high level while still having fun and learning from the people around you. For Iglesias, it is a great learning experience and a solid place to get experience as an underclassman. 

High school sports rivalries are one of the most unique and fun parts about being an athlete in high school. Athletes will always be hyped for these big games, regardless of time and place. These games provide life lasting memories in many ways that make sports as great as they are.