High school sports are competitive, from friendly rivalries between neighboring schools to intense state championships that attract thousands of fans. If you have a high schooler who plays sports, you’ve probably heard the term ‘varsity’ and wondered what it means.

In short, varsity is the top level of high school sports, featuring the school’s best players who compete against other schools’ top athletes. But there’s much more to varsity sports than just being the ‘best of the best.’

In this 3000+ word guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about varsity high school sports, including: what varsity is, how players make varsity teams, what the commitment and expectations are, the differences between varsity and junior varsity, how college recruitment works for varsity athletes, and more.

Whether your child dreams of making varsity one day or is already excelling at the varsity level, you’ll learn all the ins and outs of high school varsity sports.

What is Varsity in High School Sports?

Varsity in high school sports refers to the highest level of competition within the school’s athletic program. It is a designation given to the most skilled and talented athletes who represent their school in various sports.

The Highest Level of HS Competition

Varsity teams are comprised of high school students who have demonstrated exceptional skills and abilities in their respective sports. These athletes have usually gone through a rigorous selection process, where they are evaluated based on their performance, dedication, and commitment to the sport.

Varsity teams compete against other schools’ varsity teams, showcasing their talent and skills in intense and competitive matches. These games often draw large crowds of students, parents, and community members who come out to support their school and cheer for their favorite athletes.

Playing at the varsity level requires a high level of dedication and commitment. Athletes must be willing to put in the time and effort to improve their skills, attend regular practices, and maintain their physical fitness.

The competition at the varsity level is fierce, and athletes must constantly strive to perform at their best to secure a spot on the team and contribute to their school’s success.

Top Athletes Representing Their Schools

Being selected to play on a varsity team is a great honor for high school athletes. It is a recognition of their hard work, talent, and dedication to their sport. As varsity athletes, they become ambassadors for their schools and are looked up to by their peers.

Varsity athletes are often seen as role models within the school community. They inspire their fellow students to pursue their passions and excel in their chosen sports. They serve as leaders both on and off the field, demonstrating the importance of teamwork, discipline, and sportsmanship.

When varsity athletes compete, they not only represent themselves but also their school. They wear their school’s uniform with pride and strive to achieve success for their team. Their performances reflect the values and spirit of their school, creating a sense of unity and pride among students and faculty.

How Do Athletes Make Varsity Teams?

For many high school athletes, making the varsity team is a significant goal. It signifies a higher level of competition and provides opportunities for personal growth and achievement. But how exactly do athletes make varsity teams?

Let’s explore the process and factors that coaches consider when selecting varsity players.

Tryouts & Cutting Players

Tryouts are a common way for coaches to assess the skills and abilities of potential varsity players. During tryouts, athletes participate in various drills, scrimmages, and evaluations to showcase their athletic abilities.

Coaches carefully observe each player’s performance, evaluating their skills, technique, athleticism, and potential for growth.

Unfortunately, not all athletes who try out will make the varsity team. Coaches may have to make tough decisions and cut players based on a variety of factors, including skill level, team needs, and the overall competitiveness of the tryout pool.

It’s essential for athletes to approach tryouts with a positive mindset, give their best effort, and be open to feedback and improvement.

Criteria Coaches Consider

Coaches consider several criteria when selecting varsity players. While skill level and performance are undoubtedly important, coaches also take into account other factors that contribute to the success of the team. These may include:

  • Work ethic and dedication: Coaches look for athletes who demonstrate a strong work ethic, commitment to the sport, and a willingness to improve.
  • Coachability and attitude: Positive attitude, coachability, and the ability to work well with teammates are vital qualities that coaches value in varsity players.
  • Leadership potential: Coaches often look for players who display leadership qualities both on and off the field.
  • Game intelligence: Understanding the game, making sound decisions, and having good situational awareness are essential for varsity-level play.

Each coach may have their own specific criteria and priorities when selecting varsity players, but these are some common factors that are often considered.

Middle School Recruitment

In some cases, athletes may be recruited for varsity teams while they are still in middle school. Middle school recruitment allows coaches to identify talented athletes early on and provide them with opportunities for skill development and growth within their high school program.

Recruitment processes may vary depending on the school and sport, but they often involve coaches actively scouting middle school games, attending tournaments, or receiving recommendations from local youth coaches.

Middle school athletes who are recruited for varsity teams often have a head start in their high school athletic journey, gaining valuable experience and exposure to higher-level competition.

It’s important to note that middle school recruitment is not a guarantee of making the varsity team in high school. Athletes must continue to work hard, improve their skills, and compete with their peers during high school tryouts to secure a spot on the varsity roster.

What is the Time Commitment & Expectations?

Being part of a varsity team in high school requires a significant time commitment and comes with certain expectations. It is important for students considering joining a varsity team to understand the time commitment involved.

Practices, Games & Travel Time

Varsity teams typically have regular practices, which can range from a few times a week to daily, depending on the sport and the school’s schedule. These practices are essential for honing skills, improving teamwork, and staying in shape.

Additionally, varsity teams participate in games and competitions, which can take place during weekdays and weekends. It’s important to note that varsity athletes may also have to travel for away games, which can require additional time and planning.

According to a study conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations, varsity athletes spend an average of 15-20 hours per week on their sport, including practice time, game time, and travel time.

This commitment can be demanding, but it also offers a great opportunity for growth and development both as an athlete and as an individual.

Starting and Staying on Varsity

Starting and staying on a varsity team requires dedication, skill, and a strong work ethic. Coaches often look for athletes who demonstrate a high level of commitment, discipline, and talent. To earn a spot on the varsity team, athletes must consistently perform at a high level during tryouts and practices, showing their coach that they are ready for the challenges of varsity competition.

Once on the varsity team, athletes must maintain their performance and dedication to secure their position. This may involve attending additional training sessions, working on individual skills outside of practice, and continuously striving to improve.

It is also important to be a team player, supporting and encouraging teammates, and demonstrating good sportsmanship both on and off the field.

Leadership Expectations

Varsity athletes are often seen as leaders within their school and community. As a result, there are certain leadership expectations associated with being part of a varsity team. Varsity athletes are expected to represent their school with pride, both in their performance on the field and in their behavior off the field.

Leadership can take many forms, including leading by example, motivating teammates, and being a positive influence on and off the field. Varsity athletes are often looked up to by younger athletes and students, so it’s important for them to set a good example and be role models for others.

Varsity vs. Junior Varsity

When it comes to high school sports, you may have heard the terms “varsity” and “junior varsity” being thrown around. But what exactly do these terms mean? Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between varsity and junior varsity teams.

Key Differences

The main difference between varsity and junior varsity teams lies in the skill level and experience of the athletes. Varsity teams are typically made up of more experienced and skilled athletes who have proven themselves in their respective sports.

These athletes have usually spent several years playing the sport and have demonstrated a high level of proficiency. On the other hand, junior varsity teams consist of younger or less experienced athletes who are still developing their skills and gaining experience.

Another key difference is the level of competition. Varsity teams compete at a higher level, often against other schools’ varsity teams. This level of competition is more intense and challenging, as the athletes are expected to possess a higher level of skill and knowledge of the game.

Junior varsity teams, on the other hand, typically compete against other schools’ junior varsity teams or lower-level teams, allowing the athletes to gain experience and develop their skills in a less intense setting.

Moving Up and Down Between JV and Varsity

It’s important to note that athletes have the opportunity to move up or down between junior varsity and varsity teams. This allows them to challenge themselves and improve their skills. Athletes who excel in junior varsity may be promoted to the varsity team, while varsity athletes who are struggling may be temporarily moved down to junior varsity to regain their confidence or work on specific areas of their game.

This movement between teams is often based on the coach’s evaluation of an athlete’s performance, skill level, and overall contribution to the team. It’s important for athletes to understand that moving between teams is not a reflection of their worth as players, but rather a strategic decision made by the coach to maximize the team’s success.

Varsity Sports Recruiting and Scholarships

How College Coaches Scout and Recruit

College coaches invest a significant amount of time and effort in scouting and recruiting athletes for their varsity teams. They attend high school games, tournaments, and showcases to evaluate players’ skills and potential.

They look for athletes who demonstrate exceptional talent, strong work ethic, and the ability to contribute to their team’s success. Coaches also consider an athlete’s academic performance, character, and commitment to their sport.

When scouting potential recruits, college coaches may rely on their network of contacts, recommendations from high school coaches, and online recruiting platforms. They carefully analyze game footage, statistics, and performance data to make informed decisions about which athletes to pursue.

It’s important for high school athletes to showcase their skills and make a positive impression during games and events, as they never know when a college coach might be watching.

Athletic Scholarship Opportunities

Earning an athletic scholarship can greatly reduce the financial burden of attending college. Many universities offer scholarships to talented athletes who excel in their respective sports. These scholarships can cover a significant portion, if not all, of the student-athlete’s tuition, fees, and other expenses.

However, it’s important to note that athletic scholarships are highly competitive, and not all athletes receive them.

Each sport and division level has different scholarship opportunities. NCAA Division I and II schools can offer full or partial scholarships, while Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships but may have other forms of financial aid available.

It’s crucial for high school athletes to research the scholarship opportunities available in their sport and division level, and to reach out to college coaches to express their interest and inquire about potential scholarship opportunities.

Putting Together a Recruiting Profile

Creating a compelling recruiting profile is crucial for high school athletes who aspire to play varsity sports in college. A recruiting profile serves as a resume that highlights an athlete’s skills, achievements, and potential.

It provides coaches with a comprehensive view of the athlete’s abilities and helps them evaluate whether the athlete would be a good fit for their program.

When putting together a recruiting profile, athletes should include their academic information, athletic achievements, statistics, and any relevant personal information. It’s also important to include game footage or highlight reels that showcase the athlete’s skills and performance.

Additionally, athletes should provide contact information for themselves and their high school coach, as coaches often reach out to high school coaches for additional insights and recommendations.

There are various online platforms and services available that can help athletes create and share their recruiting profiles with college coaches. These platforms often provide additional resources and guidance on the recruiting process.

It’s essential for athletes to keep their profiles updated and actively reach out to college coaches to express their interest and provide updates on their athletic progress.


Varsity high school sports are competitive, demanding, and exciting. The commitment is high, but for passionate athletes, the rewards of competing at the top level for their school make it all worthwhile.

The intense competition and accelerated skill development at the varsity level allows these student-athletes to take their game to the next level. With college recruitment underway, varsity high school sports become even more important for athletes aspiring to continue their playing career.

Hopefully this detailed guide provided you with a comprehensive overview of what varsity sports are all about. You now know how varsity teams are formed, what sets them apart from junior varsity, expectations for varsity athletes, and how high school varsity sports tie into college recruiting.

Let the games begin!

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