Spring is at hand. Summer is close behind. And as the days grow longer and warmer, it’s time to head outside and engage in some healthy play.

In short, it’s a good time to pick a sport and to take a run at it.

But how can we decide which sport to tackle this summer? We decided a good way to survey the field of play would be to check in with some of the athletes among our high school interns. They attend various high schools in Reporter Newspaper communities. They eagerly pursue sports activities, both in and out of school, and dedicate hours of hard work to their chosen sports.

The games they pursue vary widely, from the traditional sport of soccer to the very untraditional game of Quidditch, which it appears has moved from book-bound fantasy to scuff-kneed reality. We asked our young writers to explain why they gravitated to a particular sport.

Here’s what they had to say.

Soccer is all about teamwork

By Emma McCabe

Emma McCabe, right, says soccer has taught her lifelong skills she can put to use on and off the field.

The reason I play soccer is – and always has been – the team aspect.

When you’re on a team with so many other girls who share the same passion as you, it’s easy to form inseparable bonds. Those bonds last even after you stop playing together.

Playing soccer has taught me lifelong skills that I can put to use on and off the field. You have to learn to work with others, to push yourself, and to always give it everything you’ve got. Soccer also helps to focus in the classroom, which has really paid off for me.

When you and your team succeed, you are reminded why you work so hard and spend so much time playing. This year, my Riverwood International Charter High School team was 10-0 in the region, and region champions for the second time in school history. We faced adversity head-on and really learned to work together, especially when it became essential at game time.

Another reason I am passionate about the sport is because it reminds me to focus on where I want to take my life. I always know that no matter what’s currently going on in my life, once I step on the field and feel the support of my teammates, I can forget everything and focus solely on the game.

Sometimes during the season, when I feel it’s too hard to balance everything, I need to be reminded why I work so hard for the game. When I step on the field and play with passion and dedication, I feel so alive and confident in what I’m doing.

Probably of the best life lessons soccer has taught me is to do everything with confidence because you’ll be more likely to succeed.

This season, we’ve been inspired by a quote from soccer star Mia Hamm: “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back…Play for her. And the girl next to her.”

Emma McCabe is a student at Riverwood International Charter High School.

Swimming splashes newcomer with pride and adrenaline

By Felipa Schmidt

Felipa Schmidt swims the 100-meter freestyle for the first time, during the Madeline Jude Brown Invitational at Emory University.

I started swimming the summer after sixth grade for the Chastain Tidal Waves, but stopped soon after. I swam a little in school for my Physical Education class and then on the beach in the summers, but I didn’t join a swim team again until this year for the Atlanta International School Eagles.

I decided to join the swim team for a new challenge. I wanted to try something new and do my best to succeed.

This spark of interest came from watching professional swimmers race for the gold medal in the London Summer Olympics in 2012. I realized that I wanted to swim again, not just for fun but also with a team. I wanted that family feeling that I saw on the TV screen. So, I joined the swim team at my school in 11th grade.

I was nervous before every practice and I always wondered if joining the swim team was the right thing to do. I got my answer once I went to my first swim meet.

I felt the rush of swimming a 50-meter freestyle race and then a 4×100 freestyle relay. Afterward, I felt great, like I had undertaken a challenge. I went to the meets and swam 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter freestyle as my events, improving my time little by little.

During a meet at the Cumming Athletic Center, I swam the 100-meter breast stroke, an event that I had never participated in before. I was extremely nervous and was not very comfortable with the stroke. But I still found myself ready to swim and kept telling myself to at least try it and have fun with it.

My time at the end was not something amazing. I ended up second to last in my heat, but I was happy with the fact that I pulled through and finished the race.

By the end of the season, I improved my time by roughly 4 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle and 5 seconds in 50-meter freestyle. I was proud of myself that I stayed with something until the end and that I succeed at a new activity.

The atmosphere of swim events was an adrenaline rush and to be a part of that rush was even better. I won the school award for “Most Improved Swimmer” after the season ended and also grew closer to my teammates.

I will definitely return to swimming next year for another season and maybe even improve my times.

Felipa Schmidt is a student at Atlanta International School.

Cheerleading does more than just raise spirits

By Stacy Bubes

From left, Jordan McBride, Lindsey Klopfenstein, Cory Philipson, Alexandra Juneau and Stacy Bubes, five Varsity Basketball Cheerleaders at Holy Innocents’.

Cheerleading has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. My older sister was a cheerleader. Upon acceptance at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, I knew that I wanted to be one too. I did not realize how big of a role cheerleading would play in my high school experience.

I tried out during the spring of eighth grade. Many were experienced in the sport, while others were just as new as I was. Tryout week was stressful and intimidating. We learned a dance, cheer, and chant, all of which we practiced throughout the week. Then, on Friday, we were sent into the gym in groups of three to perform what we had learned for judges.

Each year, tryouts proved to be just as stressful as they had been the previous year. But I grew to enjoy it more and more every year. My hard work paid off, and I was a member of the basketball squad throughout all of high school.

Cheerleaders have many jobs. First, we are treated the same as all other sports teams. We have practice every day of the week, two of which we work out with the school trainer. We travel to The University of Georgia for a three-day summer camp.

Our main goal is to cheer for the players, and raise the spirit level among the school community. Throughout the season, we make signs to hang around the school, give out stickers, and cheer at carpool on game day mornings.

While we cheer at all games, home and away, Winterfest is the biggest event of the season. The week consists of a hallway-decorating contest between grades, as well as various dress-up days. There is a theme, which changes every year.

The captains and seniors of the squad create the Winterfest routine, which we perform during an all-school pep rally as well as during halftime of the Varsity Boys Basketball game.

The cheerleaders work on this routine for about two months. This performance defines our squad for the year. Not only does it reveal how physically challenging our stunts are, or how high we can jump, but it also shows our ability to work together and improve throughout the years.

I was voted captain of our Varsity Basketball Cheerleading Squad this year. Being selected by my peers made me realize how much this sport meant to me. The friends and memories that I made as a result of this sport will always be a part of who I am.

Stacy Bubes is a student at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.

Quidditch: A real sport for the real world

By Blake Flournoy

Blake Flournoy shows off her Quidditch skills.

If you’ve paid much attention to the media world at any point between 1997 and 2011, chances are good that you know at least something about the Harry Potter series of novels by J.K. Rowling, or the eight movie adaptations of the novels.

And if you know about Harry Potter, you probably know at least something about Quidditch, the premier sport of the wizarding world that the series takes place in, with all of its magic and flying brooms and golden snitch snatching.

It may sound silly, but the sport is not confined to the pages of fantasy books. Quidditch is a real sport that you can play and it is played worldwide. Magic doesn’t have as great a hand in the game’s procedures as much as imagination and a drive to have fun do, but the game exists, and I, like quite a few others, play it.

Believe it or not, the sport is more serious than you would think.

Real-world play began in 2005, when a group at Middlebury College in Vermont adapted the first draft of rules from the book. The game’s rules are, and have always been, pretty simple. For starters, each player must always have a broom between his or her legs.

The “Golden Snitch” – a flying ball in the movies – is played by a person. Seekers have to “snatch” the Snitch by playing what is essentially the world’s most manic game of tag.

The game was a hit, and within weeks the rules were spreading across college campuses. Ever since, the sport has blossomed into an international sensation, to the point that there is an International Quidditch Association (IQA) that handles the distribution of rules, organizes various national leagues (yes, there are international Quidditch World Cups), and admits new teams.

Teams can be formed at the high school and college levels, though there have been a few unofficial middle-school teams.

If you were to ask me why I love playing Quidditch, I’d have to say that I love the insanity of the whole affair. The game isn’t made to be serious. It’s made to be fun for all involved and to promote friendship between teams.

At my first organized game, my team and I took a break between games to teach the elementary school kids in the audience how to play. And that was shortly after befriending our opponents from the last round!

It’s a sight to see, Quidditch. Being on the field with friends, seeing your Seeker zigzag through a nearby forest to try and catch a weaselly Snitch, gives me a feeling of satisfaction I can’t easily describe.

Which is exactly why I love Quidditch – it only makes sense while you’re on the field playing it.

Blake Flournoy is a student at Riverwood International Charter High School.