GDS has never been known as a sports school. Just ask alumnus Jaren Zinn ’17, who never let the school’s supposed inadequacies stop him from dominating the local baseball circuit en route to being recruited by several Division One college programs.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” said Zinn when asked what advice he would give to current GDS athletes with collegiate aspirations. “GDS might not be a traditional sports powerhouse, but as long as you put in the work, that doesn’t matter.”
Zinn, along with Simone Ameer ‘17, comprised part of one of the most athletically gifted graduating classes in GDS’s recent history. Zinn now plays baseball year-round for Harvard University, and Ameer plays soccer and runs track for Middlebury College.
Despite playing different sports in different college environments, the two have undergone surprisingly similar experiences in their year away from GDS. Both have struggled with injuries as well as the in-game challenges that come with the sudden advancement to a higher level of play, but they both agree that their time at GDS was greatly beneficial, particularly to their leadership skills and work ethic.
When a back injury forced Ameer to miss her entire freshman soccer season, she didn’t just sit out and sulk.
“You get out what you put in,” said Ameer, citing a philosophy frequently instilled in her by GDS coaches. “I went in with a very open mind and that helped me to get the most out of an unfortunate situation.”
Ameer credits her GDS coaches greatly for setting her up to succeed in college. “Some of them prepared me extremely well,” she said. “Especially mentally. They emphasized the importance of a unified team and taught me how to navigate difficult interactions with teammates and coaches before I encountered them myself.”
This mental fortitude helped Ameer battle through a lost first season and come out strong the next year with three goals and two assists for a 13-1-1 team.
Zinn was similarly limited by a stress fracture that held him to just three brief pitching appearances during his freshman year. He described the season as “a humbling experience.”
“Everyone’s the man in high school,” Zinn said. “But there’s such a steep learning curve once you reach the college level. You need to come in with the mentality that you can excel and be a standout player in any situation.”
Zinn knows that his “stuff can stack up” with the competition, but recurring issues with his pitching control combined with an inability to hit or play in the field due to injury made his freshman year frustrating at times. Like Ameer, however, Zinn has refused to succumb and is instead looking forward to the upcoming season.
“We have an incredibly talented team,” he said. “We were one game away from the Ivy League championship last year and everyone agrees that [the championship] is the goal for this season.”
Despite lofty expectations for the team, Zinn keeps his personal ambitions modest and within reach.
“I want to consistently throw strikes with all three of my pitches and be in for enough innings to contribute to this team,” he said.
Both athletes agreed that while the time leading up to college can be overwhelming, it’s vital not to lose sight of yourself and your home team.
“Be a leader of your team,” said Zinn. “Avoid the mentality of ‘GDS doesn’t matter,’ because it really does. Team goals are always better motivation than individual ones.”
“Do it for yourself and to have fun,” Ameer added. “Don’t go to a school you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy if not for athletics. Make sure you like the school for the school.”
As they near the end, or the beginning, of their second seasons away from GDS, Zinn and Ameer are excited to see what’s to come for themselves, their teams, and current GDS athletes with high expectations.
By Eli Thayer’19