September 06, 2006
I reminisced about this last week with my son, now a college sophomore. What was the greatest memory of his sports career? His answer was prompt: the soccer team his junior year in high school. I was astounded. Their record was a dismal 0-15.
Usually it's not the winning that sticks with you. When we were home on leave in May, I visited my track coaches after ten years of being away. Their memory of my team is a special one for them, one they discuss frequently, because they were embiggened by a decision we girls made.
There was a girl on my team who was a phenomenal athlete. She could run faster than anyone we'd ever seen and barely break a sweat; in fact, the first time she ever ran the 400m, she qualified for State. But with her incredible talent came a personality that was truly the pits: she made teen-movie witches seem like Pollyana. She was arrogant, spiteful, and mean, and she believed that the only purpose of the rest of the team was to help her win.
In her senior year, she was awarded a college scholarship in basketball, her favorite sport. As soon as she was certain of the scholarship, she quit our track team, right in the middle of the season. Unfortunately for her, her new college coach found out about it and was not impressed. He didn't want someone who lacked commitment on the team and told her she needed to rejoin.
Our coaches held a team meeting so everyone could discuss what we wanted to do; the choice to let her back on the team was now up to us. Few of the young girls wanted to say anything; heck, most of us were scared of this girl. But those of us who had already been running with this monster for three years knew what we had to do.
We didn't want her anymore.
We knew it would mean that we wouldn't win as many meets, and that we'd have to work harder to make up for the enormous advantage her talent had given us, but we didn't care. Winning wasn't as important to us as being a team was, and now that she was gone, we were a team instead of one star. We politely declined to accept her back, and that was that.
The coaches are impressed to this day that we chose the quality of our team over the ability to win. I'm sure a part of them wanted to keep her and keep winning. But it was a no-brainer to us; we had learned the lessons our coaches had taught us. Why did we have t-shirts that said "Winners make a commitment" and signs that said "Winning isn't everything...the effort is" if we weren't going to take it seriously?
And so high school track taught us more than winning. Ten years and bad knees later, all I care about are the bigger lessons I took with me.
But I still think that a football team should be allowed to kick someone's tail by 50 points if they can.
Posted by: tommy in nyc at September 07, 2006 03:08 AM (NMK3S)
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