We know the people who play. We know the people who make the big shots or goals. We look up to these people, we idolize them and we strive to be like them. We know Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Russell Wilson, Serena Williams, Steph Curry, Ronda Rousey and the list goes on. All of these athletes are at the height of their sport. They work incredibly hard when no one is watching, yet they also work incredibly hard when everyone is. There are many individuals who high-level athletes credit when they experience success — often their family, faith, coaches, trainers and teammates. I believe a lot of people forget that the team is the founding concept, whatever profession that may be in. The glory takes a team of people. In sports, a team consists of more than just the starting lineup or the majority of the stat sheet. There is a team of driven individuals all fighting for and working towards a chance to shine.
Many elite athletes are quick to credit the hard work their teammates put in during practice, whether that lies in being a great teammate or playing on the scout team. This is for them, and I speak to it a little bit myself. Everyone contributes to a win in some way. First and foremost, it is a team. Everyone works hard, and everyone is good at what they do, or they wouldn’t be on the team. When the game isn’t close anymore, and the role players come in, I wonder why it seems to be a surprise that they can make reverse layups or put the puck perfectly in the top left corner of the net. Take it from someone who gets those last few minutes of a blowout game, but who loves and works hard in their sport nonetheless.
We’re all working to be at the top, and not just in sports. Even so, playing a sport in division one in the NCAA, or further more professionally, puts you pretty close, even if you begin your career by playing left bench.
If LeBron James dunks, none of us are surprised. In fact, we might question why he didn’t do something “cooler” for Sports Illustrated. If someone off the bench throws it down, the crowd goes crazy. The difficult judgment call is if the excitement is because this individual got their chance on the court, or because nobody expected them to be able to dunk.
At a certain level in sport, many skills are consistent. Everyone can do them, and for the most part, everyone is physically fit. Of course, we could all argue about what separates goods from the greats, yet I argue here that in college and above, everyone is very good at their respective sport, and deserve to be treated and respected as such. This isn’t to say that everyone acts shocked when a role player or substitute plays well. Many are very supportive, and the cheering is uplifting, but the opposite is also true, as many are not.
Many athletes who play limited minutes in college or university are recruited from high school, most likely as their team’s super star. Many players who then go on to play limited minutes in pro are a super star out of their college or university career. The work that goes unnoticed should not only be accredited to the players who see the most floor, field or ice time. There is someone who guards their own team’s best player in practice, giving them hassle and making them work every day. That person may cheer the loudest and be the greatest teammate. Few people will know their name at the start, but when their opportunity comes, their hard work shows as well, and it shouldn’t be a shock.
Contact Mikaela Brewer at mbrewer8 ‘at’ stanford.edu.