In a game against the Oregon Ducks on March 5, University of California at Santa Barbara infielder and Paly alumnus Zander Darby broke a fourth-inning scoreless tie, pushing his first collegiate homer over the left-field fence. Three innings later, Darby did it again.
Darby, a freshman on the UCSB baseball team, played junior varsity baseball at Paly for one year and varsity baseball for three years.
Darby said a perk of playing a sport at the collegiate level is being able to build strong relationships with everyone on the team.
“At the college level, you get to live and hang out with (your teammates) all the time, and you get to spend time playing a sport you love,” Darby said.
Paly alumnus Aaron Kim specializes in high jump on the mens track and field team at the University of California, Los Angeles.
When Kim attended Paly, he was on the junior varsity and varsity track and field team each for two years. Kim said UCLA’s track and field team is similar to his high school team.
“Everybody on the team likes to have fun,” Kim said. “Everybody’s there to work hard, but everybody knows how to have a good time and enjoy themselves.”
Kim said the main difference between sports at Paly and at UCLA are the tournaments and competitions.
“The meets we attend are a lot more structured and organized, and the rules are a little bit more strict,” Kim said. “And the competition is just so much greater (because) you’re competing against some of the best athletes in the nation.”
For Darby, the main difference between playing a sport at Paly versus a college like UCSB is how the coaches treat individual athletes on the team and whether or not the coaches pay attention to outside responsibilities.
“(In high school), the coaches cater towards your homework,” Darby said. “But (in college) you have to put your team first and figure out ways if you’re taking hard classes … to get it done on your own time.”
Darby also said playing a sport in high school is much less stressful than playing a sport at a collegiate level, let alone at the Division I level.
“High school athletics are primarily about enjoying the sport,” Darby said. “Obviously you want to get better too, but it’s not as demanding as Division I.”
While the jump from high school sports to college sports is substantial, Darby said Paly helped prepare him for the academic rigor of college, which has helped him balance his work between sports and academics.
“I learned really good study habits, and I learned how to build relationships with teachers really well at Paly, (both of which have) helped me here at UCSB,” Darby said.
Kim said the coaching he received at Paly assisted in developing him into a better athlete and student and prepared him for collegiate sports.
“As a collegiate athlete himself, (my Paly coach) gave me a lot of really good advice and made some necessary changes to my training program that he felt would best prepare me to compete at this level,” Kim said. “I wouldn’t be here without his help and the help of the other coaches.”
Kim said there are some important criteria Paly athletes should think about when deciding whether or not they want to pursue competitive sports at a collegiate and post collegiate level.
“The first thing is that you really have to enjoy every aspect of (the sport),” Kim said. “You have to enjoy going to the gym and working out, working hard on and off the field and making sure that you are taking care of yourself mentally and physically.”
Darby said Paly athletes should know that getting to the next level in competitive sports is not easy, but that they should put in the work and effort if they know it’s what they want.
“If you have future aspirations of getting to the next level, it doesn’t come free,” Darby said. “You’re going to have to earn it.”