I was a senior in college our team was really struggling. Physically, we were facing injuries. Mentally, we were weak. Emotionally, we were unstable. When you combine all of these things it makes for a losing season and an unpleasant experience.
As a senior, I was over it. Ready to be done. I wanted to end things on a high note but I just didn’t feel like I had the time left to make an impact on my teammates like I had wanted to. As someone who invested a great deal of energy and positivity into a program, I expected more as the only senior. But, I wasn’t innocent in this whole ordeal. I could have done more.
At around the peak of this slump, my coach ended practice early one evening and called us into the team room. She was silent, and of course - we were scared. At least I was.
Other girls rolled their eyes. They were annoyed. Thinking she was going to give us a big ‘whoo-ra’ ‘you’re better than this’ type of speech.
But she didn’t, at least not how she typically would.
She quietly handed us all a piece of paper and a pencil.
She asked us to think about the best teammate currently on the team, in our opinion. Not your best friend. Not the girl you always sit next to on the bus. Not the most talented, or the best shooter. But the girl on team who you believed was the best teammate, and to write it down.
And by best teammate think about these attributes:
None of these attributes require any form of physical talent.
I thought about it, and I wrote down the name of the girl I felt was most deserving.
Coach collected the pieces of paper.
I thought to myself... is she going to write them on the board? I immediately started to think about myself and if I had the confidence that any of my teammates wrote my name down.
But to our surprise Coach didn’t write them down - she threw them away.
And then she asked:
“How many of you are confident, 100% confident, that one of your teammates put your name on that piece of paper? If you can’t be 100% sure that you are on one of these pieces of papers you need to do some serious self-evaluation. Be a better teammate."
And she ended the meeting.
Immediately following that meeting, I didn’t take the lesson too deep. I felt like I was a good teammate. Right? I mean good enough. Good to most.
But ‘good enough’ isn’t enough.
I didn’t realize the dire importance of being a truly good teammate. Now that I am a little older and can maturely reflect on my career as a basketball player, this lesson truly resonates with me. I was never the best at anything. I wasn’t the best ball handler, wasn’t the best shooter (I giggle to myself at that one), was never the high scorer, never that go-to player. I was maybe the smallest at times, but that wasn’t really a plus side in basketball.
The silver lining for me was that I know I was the best teammate to some of the girls I played with over my years. Not to all of them, and not always – I definitely had my moments where I could have done more, I could have been better. I should have been better. And, I wish I had the chance again.
But I also know that those girls I was a great teammate to, will remember that. Sure, they will remember who was the best player on the team too - but how much did that teammate impact their life positively and make a difference? Pick them up on the bad days? Make them a better person as a result of the relationship?
I will always remember the girl I deem the best teammate I played with, she taught me a lot.
I wish I could tell the 10 year old, scrawny, wanting-to-be-better Emily that it’s okay to not be the best athletically. I’m not telling her not to try or not to put in all that she has physically to be the best. But that what she should strive for equally is to be a good teammate.
Being a good teammate in sports is a life-long trait that doesn’t take athleticism.
At the end of the day, being a good teammate translates into being a good person - which will flow into all areas of life. To being a good sister, a good friend, a good co-worker, a good parent.
Maybe one day even the best.
Stay tuned for more great stuff from Emily!
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