Tempe Prep: Small School, Big Sports Participation

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I get the question all the time from kids at other schools: “Why would you choose to go to Tempe Prep?” The combination of homework, few students, and a senior thesis can make any onlooker question the sanity of our student body.

If I respond that I appreciate the celebrated literature we read, I often get a blank stare. If I claim to enjoy wearing our trendy uniforms, the response is even more skeptical. If I go into an exposition on the advantages of the Socratic Method in secondary education, they usually start to walk away.

Once I chase them down, however, and convince them of my mental stability, I can give them one of the many real reasons that I chose TPA for my high school experience: athletics.

It seems counterintuitive: What is attractive about the athletics of a small, Division 2 school with no football stadium to speak of? But the truth is that sports at Tempe Prep offer opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else.

I have loved sports since I was little; I dreamed about playing in the NFL since I was old enough to watch games. (I still do, but it’s starting to look like that plan might not pan out.) I longed to don a jersey and play in front of a roaring crowd under the Friday night lights.

At any big high school, unfortunately, that dream would require sacrificing too much of the rest of my high school experience. I wanted to focus on school, play other sports, and maybe even write in the newspaper (if I ever became one of the really cool kids).

The schedule of any sport at a bigger school required more than I could offer, with too little reward. My genetic limitations meant I wouldn’t be the superstar with college offers in my freshman year. I would ride the bench until maybe starting and finally contributing my senior year.

At Tempe Prep, it was a different story. TPA doesn’t encourage specialization in one sport. In fact, it encourages athletes to play many.

I was given the opportunity to perform under the lights with the football team, while also playing on the soccer and baseball teams. At other schools, only truly elite athletes get the chance to star in multiple sports. Here, my 5’11”, kind-of-athletic-but-not-so-much body was enough to become an important part of several teams.

I will always cherish playing football with my eight senior brothers, who all played offense and defense in every game. My memories of playing kick-it-and-run soccer with a team that really only knew how to push people around will stay with me for a long time. And winning baseball games against more talented teams through pure willpower is something that I will never forget. Bouncing from season to season with my best friends is an experience that most high schoolers will never see, but Tempe Prep made it possible.

Entering my last season at TPA (30 days of school left, but who’s counting?), I realize how formative sports are for us students. They teach us lessons no Humane Letters discussion ever could. They develop us as teammates, competitors, and Knights. As torturous as it may seem to go to school with the same 50 people year in and year out, I wouldn’t trade my time with them in the arena of competition for anything. There are few greater feelings than standing side-by-side with your friends as you battle together (except maybe thrashing Chandler Prep in any sport).

So, when the unenlightened, non-TPA student asks me how I could possibly bear life at Tempe Prep, I have my answer. Our sports, combined with the literature and education (but maybe not the uniforms) give Tempe Prep the power to shape me and my fellow seniors into the people we are now.

Article by Carter Sampson, a senior editor and student staff writer for De Equitibus, Tempe Preparatory Academy’s student newspaper. A National Merit Finalist with many college and scholarship offers, Carter will be attending University of Oklahoma on a 4-year full-ride scholarship.

Tempe Preparatory Academy is a tuition-free public charter school in Tempe for students in grades 6-12 that provides a nationally acclaimed liberal arts education based on the Great Books of Western Civilization with an exceptional math, science, foreign language, humanities, and fine arts curriculum. Tempe Prep has been recognized by the Arizona Board of Regents as having the highest percentage of college graduates in the state and has been named the #1 high school in Arizona by Newsweek (America’s Top High Schools 2016). For more information about enrolling at Tempe Prep, visit the school’s website at tempeprep.org

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