Team Player

Yes, I am aware than the NCAA basketball tournament is long over and I am late in writing about it. It’s just that I’ve had this player on my mind because of my children’s own athletic endeavors. Anthony Davis of the Kentucky Wildcats understands what it means to be a team player. Maybe he learned it from coaches. I have read that coach John Calipari knows how to train his players not to focus on their own scoring but on the team’s effort. In a world where everyone wants to be THE star, more coaches and more players need to see the importance of putting the team first.

My son plays tennis for his high school. The students play against one another in order to secure starting spots on the team. It seems to me that this practice fosters competition among team members rather than a team spirit, but I doubt that in tennis there is any other way to establish starting order. The coaches do try to foster team spirit by having players cheer one another on, but tennis is rather a solitary sport. I suppose he will have to learn to be a team player in the orchestra instead.

My daughter plays lacrosse. That’s a team sport for sure, but lately I’ve been hearing her complain about the ball hogs, the girls who will always take the shot without the thought of passing to another player. Often, this practice works out well. These are good players who usually score. They are the stars, but sometimes the team spirit suffers.

My other daughter is involved in what has to be the most collaborative and unifying of team sports — synchronized skating. On her team, there can be nor star, no standout, no one player who takes up the slack for the others. In synchro, every skater must successfully perform each and every turn on the correct edge, in time with the music, in line with the other skaters, and with a smile on her face. There is only a lack of team spirit if the team perceives that one of its members isn’t trying hard enough. Then they push her. But no one can be the star; the team cannot win without all of its members.

My freshman year of college, I managed the men’s basketball team. We had some amazingly talented players, one of whom was so big we simply called him “Tree”. We had a great coach, who tried to instill in these young men a feeling of unity, but we also had too many players who wanted to be stars. We ended the season 4 and 22.

So, I was impressed with the Wildcats and with Anthony Davis in particular. He struggled with scoring in that final game, couldn’t seem to sink those three-pointers for which he is so well-known. Was the team lost without the scoring feats of its star player? No way. Davis blocked shots, brought down rebounds, and passed the ball. In letting other players score the points, he let go of a bit of his star status, but he was till named MVP, and the team won the title. And that is what being a team player is all about.

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