By Gabe Lefkowitz
When people think of South High, achievement is a word that may come to mind. South boasts numerous student achievements ranging from Quiz Bowl to Envirothon to college admissions. However, seldom is South recognized for its athletes. Despite this, every year, a few students who go the extra mile to attract scouters are recruited to play at the collegiate level.
For senior John Gould, who will be running cross country at SUNY Purchase next year, daily after-school practice during the school year was just the beginning. Gould not only was on the track team for his entire high school career, but he also planned a personalized summer workout schedule, which included running 85 miles per week by the end of the summer.
When Gould committed to SUNY Purchase, the coach told him that he was good enough to run for the varsity team. His times were so fast that he would already be considered one of the best runners there. Reflecting on his high school career, Gould said “I didn’t have the most talent. I just worked hard with distance running. If you work hard and put the effort in, anybody can become good at anything.”
Like Gould, senior Kendall Francis, who will be playing basketball at Mount St. Mary University next year, is also a strong believer in working hard to develop a skill. Throughout high school, Francis not only practiced every single day, but also played for Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams, even competing in national tournaments.
Francis knew that he would most likely not be on the radar of any scouts. He knew that he had to put himself out there. This is why he originally became involved in the AAU.
Francis knew that any game could be his one chance to get noticed, so he had to play extremely well to motivate scouts to acknowledge him. Francis was inspired by words his mother said: If he wanted to play in college, he had to make it happen. Francis was also motivated by his experience on the school basketball team his junior year: “Last year, I didn’t play too much… so this year I said, ‘Over the summer let me put in the work, let me put in the time, and hopefully, I will get a good result.’”
And it worked. During a Christmas basketball tournament, a scout who was there looking at a player on the other team (Francis’s matchup) saw that Francis outperformed the player he was originally interested in. The scout was impressed and contacted Francis an hour later. Francis remembers that “[he] felt like a boss,” after getting that phone call.
Francis and Gould have both faced conflict over the years. Physically, Gould remembers that he often had to deal with both illness and injury due to overtraining and insufficient stretching. He thinks that he was able to persevere despite the challenges he faced because he is a competitive person who always wants to improve.
Francis dealt more with psychological obstacles like a lack of confidence while playing. This lack of confidence stemmed from not making the varsity team back in tenth grade, which had been one of his goals. However, like Gould, Francis persisted because he “likes beating every opposition.” He wanted to stand out and “make moves that people had not seen before.”
There will be a big change in level of competition for both Gould and Francis as they transition from high school to collegiate sports. Gould, who normally runs a 5K (around 3.1 miles) will be running an 8K in college (about 5 miles). Gould said that he thinks “it is going to be a little harder of an event with more serious competition.”
Francis said that college basketball is “just a whole different level…You have to treat your body right. You [have] to practice ten times harder. It’s a lot of commitment. That’s the biggest part. And you have to basically make it a part of you.”
Both Gould and Francis attribute their achievements to hard work and dedication. Gould said that he realized that he may “only have this opportunity once,” so he just went for it and tried his best. It was this mindset that got Francis and Gould to where they are today.