The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


Opinion: What I’ve learned from sports about the importance of inter-grade friendships

Rubi Ochoa
Sports at Castilleja bring students together across grade levels.

If you had told sixth grade me when I was entering Castilleja that some of my closest friends would end up being those terrifying eighth graders running across the circle to tie my tie, I would’ve thought you were crazy.

Yet, as I reflect back on my first year of high school and this first chaotic month and a half we’ve had so far, I’ve realized that those people, now seniors, truly have been there in ways that even my classmates in my own grade have not.

But it’s not just the seniors’ off campus privileges which come in handy for a drink from Peet’s—it’s the moments when the saying “older and wiser” holds true, the best advice is given, emails and essays are read and edited and top napping (or crying) spots on campus are recommended. To whom, or rather, what, do I owe these friendships? Water polo.

For all those who participate, Castilleja Athletics is a fundamental part of their upper school experience. From practices after school to weekend overnight games and championship seasons, there’s no doubt that being with your teammates 24/7 is a bonding experience.

And with some of the longest practices of any sport on campus, Castilleja water polo has a reputation for being one of the most exhausted, but also most bonded, teams. Think Just Dance sessions during break on game days, yearly sleepovers with little sleeping and even our very own Casti Wopo Bake Off.

When I signed up for water polo at the start of freshman year and opened up that Google calendar invite, the instant evaporation of my unfilled time after school was a little scary at first. However, I quickly came to realize that all the hours I spent at the pool each day flew by when I was with the team.

There is no better bonding experience than suffering through the infamous “hell week” before the school year has even started or almost drowning during a grueling leg set. But there’s also nothing better to keep you going than all your teammates pushing through with you (and the promise of fresh-baked banana bread after). From day one, it was clear that the heart of Casti water polo is more than just the sport—it’s the people as well.

Now, as the end of fall sports nears and our beloved seniors are getting ready to say goodbye to their last season with the team, I started thinking long and hard about what exactly it is that makes these intergrade friendships so special. Although I can only really speak to the perspective of being a younger player, the fact that I am an underclassman is what has made these friendships more impactful.

Starting high school with the support of a team who’s been through it all before and is ready to share all the wisdom they’ve gained is life saving. I can only imagine how much of a harder time I would’ve had surviving freshman year if I didn’t have the best juniors and seniors there to guide me.

But there’s more to it than just having an older and wiser support system. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what—and like with all friendships, I think it’s different for each person. In a way, bonding with someone in a different grade, especially through sports, makes them a distinctly different kind of friend than those in your own class at Castilleja.

Don’t get me wrong—nothing beats the ones who have been there every step of the way—but a fresh perspective is always appreciated. And perspective is definitely something I’ve gained. Plus, at a school as small as Castilleja, making new friends exclusively within your grade can be hard. And I’ve realized that having people you can rely on outside of your class is something you don’t realize you need until you have it.

For all the moments where I’m struggling and need someone who’ll understand but is detached from the problem, I have someone to text. Every time I need to pretend my sophomore year problems don’t exist, I know who to call. Therein lies the importance of intergrade friendships: it’s exactly the differences between each person and their grade which make it so valuable.

When seasons come to a close, tears are always shed at senior nights—and not just by the seniors. That just goes to show how deep the bonds forged between grades, especially by sports, go. Though it might be farewell, the lasting memories, laughter, and friendships will always hold a special place in my heart.

So whether you’re venturing into the rest of your future on the Circle or will soon be journeying beyond it, make the most of your time with those around you, and don’t forget to cherish the ones not in your graduating class.

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About the Contributors
Amelia Yuan
Amelia Yuan, Staff Writer
Amelia Yuan '26 is a staff writer for Counterpoint. When she's not writing, you're likely to find her in the pool or daydreaming about her next chance to get in. She loves Trader Joe's, coffee (but only iced) and listening to folklore on repeat.
Rubi Ochoa
Rubi Ochoa, Staff Writer & Photographer
Rubi Ochoa ‘27 is a staff writer and a photographer for Counterpoint. She is looking forward to meeting new people and working on improving her writing and photography skills.  Rubi loves to play volleyball, make new friends, read, write creative stories, dance and much more, but is always looking to make new and close connections.

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