Unlike at Seoul Foreign School, many schools around the world – typically in the United States – hold something called “preseason,” a period of time that takes place before the regular season of a sport begins. It consists of a series of games that do not count towards the win-loss records of the team, but rather offer a chance for teams to perform against tougher opponents in game speed. Similarly, the National Football League (NFL) holds annual preseason games before the “real” NFL season moves into full swing.
The benefits of holding these exhibition games include the fact that it gives the coaches a chance to evaluate their own players: who deserves to be a starter on the team, who needs work on what skills, who has good leadership, and more. In addition, the athletes themselves are able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team in order to create strategies to come out with a strong victory in the later stages of the season. It also gives an opportunity for the team itself to practice scrimmaging with a team of the same caliber without having to split their own players. In other words, the team is able to form a chemistry and dynamic that wouldn’t have been there without being on the field together as one entity.
However, preseason is not taken lightly. The high risk of injury does still exist, yet teams continue to have their star players on the field despite the consequences. One factor that teams cannot afford is a season-long recovery period for an injury. Oftentimes, athletes go full out on their first official game, so there are multiple incidents in which players at the top of the roster unfortunately get severely injured during preseason and thus are not physically able to play during the games that count towards the win-loss record. Furthermore, it can also be argued that preseason reveals the inner workings of a team – the plays that took weeks to perfect, the strength and stamina of each individual, and the weaknesses that any team attempts to hide – and in fact helps the other teams.
While these may be valid arguments, something to consider is that there is the risk of injury in every drill, practice, scrimmage or game, and sometimes those injuries cannot be prevented. In addition, preseason offers more time for the athletes to physically and psychologically prepare themselves for the vigor and stamina the real season requires. In fact, players that would typically be labeled as the “bench players” oftentimes get their chance to prove themselves during preseason. This, then, levels out the playing field for when coaches pick the starting athletes.
Considering the potential benefits preseason brings, it would be interesting to see a preseason for any of the sports that are offered at schools around the world. In all, I think teams would bear the fruit of such exhibition games, but they would have to strategize in order to ensure the teams are not open books.