A varsity team is made up of the principal members of a sport team that will represent usually a college or a high school in sporting events. Varsity contains essentially the strongest players, and usually is mostly made up of students at the junior or senior level in colleges and high schools. Junior varsity, conversely, is the group of second rung players who have not yet gained enough experience to play at the varsity level. These are usually freshman and sophomore athletes, who will ultimately move up to varsity standing.
Frequently, both colleges and high schools have sporting events for both junior varsity and standard varsity. This way, less experienced players get the opportunity to play and practice their skills at a given sport. A football team for instance might play two games back to back, one for each standard of team.
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In other instances, junior varsity players may constitute the “second string” athletes. They may be called upon to play in varsity games, especially when the chances of a team winning are fairly sure, for example if a team is up by many points. Another instance that might call these team members is if the varsity members cannot compete due to injury, illness or other reasons. In this case, junior members can be asked to become varsity players, practicing with the varsity sports team.
In larger schools, varsity players often have second string and backup players for each position; so a junior varsity player might never be part of the second string. Not all players have to go through the this process. Some students are so athletically gifted that they’re immediately good enough to have varsity status, no matter what grade they are in. There are certainly many sophomores and freshman that are immediately on varsity teams.
In other cases, junior varsity remains a testing ground, and the players are carefully watched and helped to develop greater skills in their chosen sport. High schools and colleges may employ both a varsity coach and a junior varsity coach, since practice schedules are often vigorous for both teams. The varsity coach does pay attention to up and coming junior varsity members, as ideally, he or she will ultimately be coaching the same players on the varsity team.
Some players do not develop the skills to play on the varsity team. They may remain on junior varsity throughout a college or high school career. For those who merely enjoy a sport, this may be satisfying. The competitive student may be troubled by never making varsity. On the other hand, an athlete who is not quite up to varsity standards may get to play more often on junior than he or she would if placed on a second string team. There can be advantages to remaining in junior varsity, since it may give students more time to play competitively.