Sports at Berkeley High School

General Questions Discussions about Specific Sports Related Pages


Which sport for unskilled, non-competitive daughter?

August 2009


My daughter is a student at Berkeley High and she needs to join a sports team/club as PE waiver (she doesn't have space in her curriculum for PE but is required to have 2-year PE to graduate, long story). BHS requires that students to have 5 hours/week sports activities signed off by a non-parent as coach for PE waiver. Our problem is that she has no interest or skills for competitive sports. I wonder if anyone runs or knows some sports teams or clubs that meet regularly and are non-competitive that she can join for PE waiver. The sport itself is not very important (running, bandminton, golf, tennis...). Thanks. -Serena

Hi! Many teens do their p.e. requirements at the Berkeley YMCA. That way they can do swimming, aerobics, weight training, etc. At their own pace and time, often with their friends. Their is a women's only area that is comfortable for a lot of the teen girls, although they are welcome to exercise in the coed area as well. Your teen would need to sign up with the Youth & Teen Director, Sarah Markesky. She would also need to become a Y teen member. Financial assistance is available for that. If you have questions, please contact Sarah at 665-3234 or smarkesky [at] Eden

Well, most sports ARE competitive in some sense. Why doesn't she join one of the many teams at BHS? The cross-country team is fabulous. My daughter ran for three years. It's hard work but very gratifying. They begin practice the week before school starts and everyday after school through the fall. There is a really nice community on the teams and the level of ''competition'' is up the individual. We have a rivalry with Alameda high, but it's fun! Oh, it's also a really good workout. She will get into shape and feel the effects of long-distance running endorphins (always good for teens!). As far as managing her homework, my daughter did.

There is also a badminton team at the high school, but I don't know anything about it.

BHS team sports fulfill the PE credits. You could look on the school website to see if any of the other teams appeal your daughter. Go Jackets!

She should ask if a dance class, karate or classes at the Y would be sufficient, they are all non-competitive, I know many kids at El Cerrito High were able to use dance for their pe waivers. anon

NON-competitive sports -- my daughter will be a senior this year (gasp!) and since she was 11 years old been studying circus arts and physical theatre. It is so non-competitive and so empowering and healthy for her and every young adult who walks through the door. I can not say enough good about it. She can work at her own pace, set her own goals, can perform or not (check out for pictures of two BHS kids performing all summer long in New England) and she will go home tired and happy. A brand-new circus arts and circus-based fitness company, Kinetic Arts Center, is opening this Sept with classes and programs that will suit her needs -- It's in Oakland right off a bus line, BART, easy free-way access. There are kids of all ages in the performing program as well as not. We are lucky to have circus arts as a physical fitness option for our kids. Victoria

I own the Alameda Yoga Station. Some of our yoga teachers have allowed teens in class and I have written letters and/or signed forms stating that students have come to certain classes. There are many yoga studios in Berkeley and some of them might be willing to do the same. Betsy

would rock climbing count? There are several climbing gyms around. Perhaps you could set up a non-competetive program with them?

If not that, how about teaching a sports program with little kids? Perhaps at one of the locl elemnetary schools afterschool? How about at Washington Elementary jsut across the street from BHS? Would that count for her PE credits? Could be great for ehr resume, too.

Also, perhaps working out with a masters swim program at Clark Kerr or King Pool. The coaches could do the sign off and she wouldn't need to compete. They work out in the early morning and/or in the evening. At King she could probably do 2 nights a week to get the hours she needs. The coach at king (Blythe) is an excellent swim coach for all abilities and doesn't make people compete. Not sure if she'll take on minors, but you could ask. Anon

I have some suggestions, but I would like to point out that tennis, badminton, running and golf can all be competitive- so I wonder if competitiveness is truly the issue. (There is both a track and a cross country as well as a badminton team at BHS.) I worry that people see experiencing competition as a negative factor rather than a positive factor.

That being said there are about a hundred martial arts dojos in the area, there are some good dance studios in Berkeley, there is dragon boating and sailing at the Berkeley Marina. There are various venues to kayak at the Berkeley Marina and the Oakland estuary. I think there can be competition with these sports as well, but they are organized and could probably meet the BHS qualifications. I think the decision needs to be based on what your child likes to do because exercise is really important to our children and choosing something she enjoys will help her stay active as an adult. My children really love water sports and what better place to do them than in the Bay Area?

So I wonder has your daughter fully explored the team options at BHS? BHS has a fantastic sports program with a huge number of team, some of which require no prior experience in the sport. Parent of former BHS Athletes


Sports for 17-year-old exchange student?

August 2008


we are hosting a 17yo exchange student. She is attending BHS and she would like to do some kind of sports activity while here. Unfortunately, none of the PE classes were appealing and she did not make the volleyball team. I'd love to help her to find some sport she could do but don't know where to turn. Team sport would be best - she could meet more kids. Also she should be able to get there and back on the bus (we are in Berkeley). The YMCA is right by BHS but not sure if they have anything for teens there. Any suggestions? Thanks! Luca

Your exchange student might enjoy field hockey. It's happening now and ends in early November. It's a great group of girls. Practices are 4-6 on Monday and 6-8 Tues, Wed, Thurs at the football field. Games are scheduled on different days and most are away. Hit the ball with a stick. Lots of running. Willingness to learn some plays and having a sense of game strategy helps. If she has played soccer before that will help.

Other, Mersey Soccer club has practices at the King Middle School and they have teams for different age groups. Soccer seasons are in the fall and spring. Lissa

Has your student thought about running cross-country at Berkeley High? It's a really great sport. It's as competitive as she wants it to be. The coaches are GREAT and it's easy to get on the teams. The practices are everyday with meets on some weekends and week days. My daughter ran for three years and really liked it. She met a lot of great people. It's hard but worth it. Look on the website for photos and practice times. mother of a runner

Luca - Please ask your student to check out Girls Field Hockey. Starts in the fall, and the girls recruit at the beginning of school. Enthusiasm and spirit required, but no experience necessary. My daughter was a proud player on this team for 4 years. They didn't win many games, but the girls loved wearing their uniform on game days and carrying a big stick! Cathy


Sports for shy daughter coming to BHS?

Dec 2007


My daughter is at a small independent school and is thinking she might like the bigger pond at Berkeley High. At the same time, she's a shy introvert, and her way into social groups tends to be through sports. She is interested in running (cross-country and/or track) and to some extent in basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, or crew.

In middle school she's been a good athlete but not a star. I wonder whether (a) she'll qualify for Berkeley teams (do kids have to try out for all the teams?) and (b) as a white girl, will she be equally welcome in all sports - I've heard that some sports tend to be more racially segregated, and (c) do all the teams practice every day after school - is it possible to keep up school work and team work?
Thanks! ...Frog Hopping from Small to Big Pond?

Hi, My daughter also came from a small school and made a beautiful transition into BHS. She has played on the junior varsity volleyball team at BHS for the last two years. They have three team levels: freshman, JV and Varsity so there are usually spots for everyone who tries out.

It has been a wonderful experience for my daughter. She has formed close friendships and grown tremendously as an athlete. Freshman year was pretty easy for her to balance school work with sports. This year was a little more challenging but still quite manageable. I understand maintaining school work and sports can get more difficult in junior year as curriculum becomes more challenging. Many of the girls I know who play volleyball are excellent students. I would argue that sports is a great way for girls to have some balance in their lives. It helps relieve stress, they get a good workout, and it's a lot of fun.

During the season the girls practice every day for about two hours beginning at 4:30 and play about two schools per week.

Students do need to try out for sports teams but I can only speak specifically about volleyball. The tryouts begin the week before fall semester, M-F and last about three hours at a time. If you sign up to receive the BHS newsletter online announcments will be made about tryouts a few weeks before they begin.

Your daughter might want to consider taking a skills camp during the summer. Cal runs a great summer program at the UC campus. The CAL womens volleyball coaching staff and women's volleyball team members coach the camp participants. Check online at the UC Berkeley Sports Department website for more information. They offer camps for most of the other sports your daughter is also interested in playing. Sign ups begin early so check the website as soon as you get a chance. Volleyball teams at BHS are racially mixed.

Best of luck. Volleyball Mom

My son is a freshman at BHS and he's on the (novice) crew team. We're new but I can tell you what I've seen so far. The BHS crew team is probably the most diverse crew team in the country! (It is the only public HS crew team west of the Mississippi.) I think most of the kids are white, but there are many kids from other ethnicities rowing at all levels (novice, JV, and varsity). The crew team takes anyone who is committed and comes to practices. The women practice in the mornings before school and the men after school. Everyone practices on Saturday mornings, too. During the off season (fall/winter) practices are three days a week, and in the spring during racing season, they are six days a week. It is definitely challenging to get homework done, but we have found that the exercise, team work, and camaraderie are as valuable (if not more) than homework!! It's an expensive sport and there's lots of fund-raising activities, but even though we're new, I feel like we've entered a wonderful community. (Before my son started, I worried it would feel snobbish or elitist, but I see now that it's far from that!) It was highly recommended to incoming parents that freshmen get involved right away at BHS in a club or sport--and I think that was the best advice. Good luck to your daughter! New Novice Mom

I can respond from the perspective of my/my daughter's limited experience with Berkeley High sports, which was freshman volleyball. (She's now a jr.) If I remember correctly, there were tryouts, but everyone made the team -- maybe because not that many girls tried out. The team (around 14 or 15 girls) was about half African-American and half white/other. They practiced 3-4 days/week. The season was short for freshman that year - Sept. & Oct. My daughter chose not to continue with volleyball, but did make a couple very good friends with whom she continues to socialize. So for her (she also came from a small independent school) it was a nice way to meet new people. Anon

Sports at Berkeley High are definetly NOT segregated, not sure what gave you that idea.

Most teams do have tryouts, and your child does not have to be in the top 10 to get on all teams. However some teams have a lot of kids trying out who have been playing the sport for years on club teams (soccer for instance) and those will be more competitive.

My daughter has been on the cross-country team for the past 3 years and has loved it. It's a fun sport and everyone is welcome regardless of their ability. The coaches are supportive of everyone who trys. I highly recommend her going to the first practices that start the week before school does in August. I know a lot of the cross-country kids go onto track in the spring. My daughter is also on the softball team. There is a tryout for that but as you didn't mention her being interested in that I won't go into it.

I hope someone else can respond to you about the other teams that your daughter is thinking of trying out for.

Most teams have practices everyday after school, sometimes starting at 4 until about 6-7. The student athletes do need to juggle homework and practices, but it has seemed to work out okay for us. One thing that comes up is some teams will have their games at the end of the day before school is out so the students miss their 5th and/or 6th period class. It's up to them to talk to the teacher and make up the missed work.

And, finally, if you and your daughter are open to being on a team with other ethnicities (and in a school for that matter), I don't know why she wouldn't be welcome. Sports are a life-saver for all kids. Happy Holidays. sports mom

The advantage of Berkeley HS is that it offers many, many sports opportunities. The disadvantage is that the talent pool is incredibly deep and consequently many sports teams are intensely competitive. Our daughter came from a very small private school and chose BHS precisely because she wanted a big school and wanted to play sports. Although she was a competent competitive club soccer player, she did not make a soccer team her freshman year and was devastated. However, she rallied and went out for lacrosse as a complete novice, made a team, and ended up loving this sport almost as much as soccer. If your daughter is interested in lacrosse she has a good chance of making a team, although the week-long try-outs are strenuous. For crew, she almost certainly would be accepted. Basketball and volleyball, however, are going to be very competitive. Don't know about cross-country.

With regard to racial mix, my daughter (who is Latina) has found the lacrosse girls to be mostly white but she has never commented on any feeling of being treated differently because of race or ethnic background.

Practice times vary with the sport. For lacrosse, there are either practices or games every day. For away games I have had the luxury of being able to attend most games and so I could drive my daughter home after her JV game without having her wait through the Varsity game to come home on the bus. If your daughter is good about doing homework at the game (if it is cold or wet, the girls stay in the bus to do their work), then even away game days are workable.

Good luck with your decision-making. Anon

I already posted the brief answer about my daughter's volleyball experience and wanted to add something that I don't think anyone else pointed out -- that is, students who are on a sports team will get P.E. credit (I believe 2 years are required for graduation). That's something to take into consideration when trying to decide if it's worthwhile/doable to manage homework and practice. Anon


Which team sports qualify for P.E. credit?

March 2001


My son will be attending Berkeley High next year as a freshman. We are trying to figure out how to get P.E. credit for team sports (he doesn't want a sport in which he could get hurt or that requires many hours each week--apparently that eliminates crew and lacrosse). Can anyone help? We'd like to know which team sports offer P.E. credit and if they meet fall, spring, or year-round, how many hours of commitment are required per week, and whether anyone can join the team or if tryouts are required. I tried calling the Athletics Department and emailing them as well, but I was told only that there is no centralized information repository for the 27 team sports available at Berkeley High. Does one really have to figure out who the coaches are for the teams and call each one? I don't see how any student who is taking two languages and the assigned classes can fit in P.E. within a 6-period day. Any advice is most appreciated. Maureen

Kids play the sports they are good at, that they like or have some interest in. It's a great way to skip formal PE classes, particularly if your child wants to use school time for academics. All team sports provide PE credit. But it is a big time commitment. Most teams have daily practice. Fall sports start just before school opens in Sept. Winter sports start in Nov. Spring sports start in Feb. or March, and they all run @ 3+ months. Each sport provides one term of PE. The school can provide you with a list of all the sports, which season they're played, who the coach is and a contact phone number.

BHS has one of the, if not the, largest number of athletic teams in the country, so I imagine you'll find something that appeals. I think all of them have tryouts and if there isn't a freshman team there may even be some strong competition for spots. Then there are the games or meets: sometimes on weekends and sometimes more than once each week on a weekday. So it's not a quick, low output, easy substitution for PE. I do think it's a good way for a kid to make friends and get involved, however. I'd start with figuring out where your child has skill or interest. My son ran X-Country in Fall just to get in shape for soccer which was in Winter. He got credit for 2 team sports in the same year. I believe kids need 4 semesters of PE to graduate.

By the way-- school is an 8 period day, at least for now. -Winifred

To Maureen regarding BHS team sports, I can recommend the distance running squad. My daughter joined this year and has profited physically and emotionally. The atmosphere is not gung-ho competitive. Besides conditioning exercises and running laps (with instruction on technique), the squad runs 4-5 miles through town once a week. It does takes time--every weekday after school until 5 or so and occasional Saturday meets, but the benefits include PE credit. The coach, Martin Malzahn, is a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. You can reach him at martinmalzahn [at] or by phone at 981-1717 or 517-2483. By the way, for track shoes, he recommends a store on College Ave. that gives BHS a good price. If you're sure of the brand, model, and size, I recommend Nancy

A word about team sports at BHS ... my son plays a spring sport, and when it starts in February, he does nothing else. We don't see him at all until after dinner every night. He is dead tired when he comes home. Homework gets squeezed in, if at all, and his already mediocre grades drop to just above the level required to stay on the team (2.0 GPA). When he was a freshman, we seriously considered taking him off the team because of this. To me it seemed a very poor tradeoff, sports for grades. I was a nerdy sports-hating overachiever in high school so it was distressing to have a kid who not only hated academics but also wanted to be a jock!

HOWEVER, in retrospect, now that he is a senior, I have to admit that I am a total convert to the idea of team sports, and I am so grateful for the advice I got from others encouraging me to let him play no matter what. I'd say that his participation in sports has been the single most valuable aspect of his entire 4 years at Berkeley High. Here's why:
1. He's learned that hard work really does pay off. He is not a natural athlete, so he's had to work really hard to be good enough to get game time. His skills have improved so markedly through sheer determination and effort that he has gone from being a bench warmer most games to playing most games and really contributing.
2. Self esteem obviously derives from the above.
3. He learned how to lose.
4. Cameraderie among the team members (including JV, and the girls' team) has meant that he's always felt very comfortable at BHS, and part of a social circle. Not only that, but former players who've already graduated and are in college now are GREAT motivators for not-very-academic high schoolers.
5. Drugs and alcohol have not been a big problem because he can't abuse them and also play such a demanding sport.
6. He isn't a pudgy clumsy adolescent anymore. he's in great shape and interested in taking care of his body - in fact he is the first family member on my side in 3 generations to have visible muscles!

I think every kid can benefit from playing a sport and I highly recommend it.



See also: Summer Basketball Camp at BHS


May 2000

Last year, my son tried out for the 9th grade basketball team at BHS. It was very competitive, and he didn't make it, but we commended him for putting out his best effort. The students are required to get a doctor's clearance before trying out, and the tryouts last 4-5 days. Students who don't make the team can take basketball as a P.E. course, both during the school year and during summer school at BHS. If offered this summer, incoming 9th graders can enroll in summer school. My son has enjoyed these classes. Also, I understand that one of the basketball teachers at BHS offers a summer camp, and the YMCA downtown offers basketball during after school hours. -- Anonymous