If you haven’t seen this clip of long-time NFL coach Herman Edwards yet, it’s worth watching. I know Herm likes to sound off, but the underlying message here is a good one. Teams are not about you, yet your role on the team is so important. Herm says that you’re a valuable person on the team whether you play 3 innings, 2 innings or 1. Some players don’t play every game. Some play all the time. Some very seldom play. A few get injured and can’t play. What’s truly important is the role that EVERYONE PLAYS on the team!
Our society has divergent view points that appear most especially during election time. Some think successful people should share everything and some say those who don’t achieve success are not trying hard enough. The beauty of team sports is that there are practices that allow individuals to strive to improve and showcase their abilities to their coaches while building trust with their teammates! Then there are games where those who excel in practice earn the opportunity to represent their teammates (all of them) and what they have collectively accomplished in practice. You develop your individual talent on your own in your individual training time at home or in a field near you! There are not enough hours in practice and games to make anyone significantly more talented as an individual.
When the teams I have coached win championships (13 NCAA, NFL and high school teams in two sports) EVERYONE gets a ring. Not just the starters. Not kids who played some. Everyone! And at the 20-year reunion, EVERYONE’s contribution is celebrated – not just the so-called top players. Here are a few observations I have made from the most successful teams I have coached. Specifically, three things that each player on the team can do regardless of talent to maximize their potential and help their teams achieve their goals:
1) Practice in a way that makes your coaches, teammates and family proud. Everyone practices, but few practice at the level of a champion. You don’t need a lot of talent to compete at practice in a way that helps your team be successful. You need grit, focus, and tons of energy.
2) Study lacrosse and other sports and the athletes who play them. To be an athlete at the top level requires a strong sports mind. Be a sports rat. Study role model athletes from different sports. Play different sports. One thing I can tell you about elite athletes is that they constantly study other elite athletes.
3) Be as excited for your teammate’s success as your own on game day. Ultimately success grows upon success, even tiny victories. The opposite is also true and the phrase misery loves company is something that you’ve probably heard. Success loves company too. Attract it!
Strong teams are made at team practice sessions, but the best players are made on their own, away from practices. Pro-Bowl kicker Matt Stover used to talk to kids in the community and say “no one ever told me that I had to go out and kick footballs.” Your desire to be your best should not just be noticed on the practice and game field. You have unlimited playing time on your own time!
Practice fields are where your opportunities are to build trust together, integrate sport skills and sport IQ you have built on your own, and learn/compete in the systems of your coaches. You will get a lot of time to practice with the team!
Games are a celebration of your lacrosse life, AND an opportunity to be your best together. The number of minutes are irrelevant and not a guarantee! But the success of your team and your focus on doing your very best all the time, every time, be it at practice, on your own, or in a game is what will forge your destiny long after your sports career has ended!
Your parents may not always understand why or why not you play or don’t play in a game. That’s alright! Stay focused on the things that you control in the process and keep bringing positive energy to your teams. That’s a role that every team member should share equally!