Whether you’re on the speech or basketball team, let me begin with a piece of advice. Regardless of the activity or sport you’re in, your team is your family. Period. It makes no difference if you have beef with somebody off the court or not. If so, you leave it outside the court and off the team. The intercollegiate basketball team I play for as of now is struggling quite a bit with this concept of family, and it’s causing teammates to struggle with maintaining motivation and memory of why we’re there in the first place. It’s becoming so extreme, that several practices and games have resulted in endless sprints and screaming matches because of broken out verbal arguments between specific players. Having had these experiences, I’ve made the executive decision to create a list of all the reasons why I AM there. This list reminds me that I’m good enough, and I can get through the obstacles thrown at me by my teammates. These are reminders for myself when I’m close to quitting or convince myself that being on the team is not worth it. I hope for those of you who are also struggling with a tense and uncooperative team, that you will use these reminders when you catch yourself getting down about your situation.
1. I am good enough.
If I wasn’t good enough to be playing on the team, I wouldn’t be on the starting line-up and playing entire games. Although there are days where my shot is off or my defense is sloppy, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m good enough. Every player has an off-night once in awhile, where the person their guarding on defense makes repetitive three-pointers and jump shots, or where they play dirty and get ignorant fouls. I take these moments and grow from them. It’s okay to beat yourself up a little bit at first, but don’t dwell on it. You ARE good enough to be there, just as much as everyone else.
2. I am confident without the condescending backlash from my teammates.
It’s one thing to guide your teammates and provide constructive criticism, however it’s a whole nother thing to yell at your teammates; making comments like, “What the f*** are you doing?” (When one player tells you to do one thing but your coach has another idea) “No stop, don’t you dare do that again!” (After taking a shot out of your rage, but still making it) “You’re messing up so much, seriously get it together, c’mon!” (After not catching the ball from a horrendous pass) “Dude what the f***?” (When the girl you’re defending makes a clean assist to a teammate who made the basket but wasn’t your player to defend anyway). A teammate is somebody who helps you up when you’re down, regardless of how many instances you screw up on defense or make a dumb move without thinking. Odds are, I didn’t mean to make a mistake, so you can stop ripping on me for it. I’m able to manage my body and brain to perform at its best ability, and I am able to shut out my teammates when they get to be too much. Even if you don’t love how they treat you, you love the game, so you will continue to block out negative narration throughout the game.
3. I am needed to provide balance to the team.
In relation to the previous reminder, I know that one of my essential roles on the team is to provide a sense of balance and structure among teammates. I am the player that doesn’t swear at my teammates when they mess up, or yell at them to “Get it together.” I believe being on a team is about treating your teammates with respect and providing constructive criticism for them when they need it, just not in a bossy or intimidating fashion. (That’s what the coach is for!!) When I watch a team member miss a wide open layup, or let their player get around them and make a basket, instead of yapping about how much I think she sucks or how she should’ve done that differently, I pat her back. I throw in a little bit of, “You got the next one dude,” and “Shake it off, you got her next time.” Although it can be frustrating when accidents happen, it’s important to keep the energy up with your team. If I wasn’t there, there’d be no balance, everyone would be yelling. And hey, one person out of seven not yelling is a hell of a lot better than seven people yelling.
4. I love the game.
I have loved the game of basketball since I was barely a teenager. I remember vividly, preparing for seventh grade basketball tryouts on my driveway in chilly fall weather, using yard waste bins as shooting targets since I didn’t own a hoop at the time. I had my glory days in middle school, where I immediately fell in love with game and snapped up every opportunity to get better and have a great time with my friends. We went 11-1 that year. I then played on my high school’s basketball teams for two years, where I encountered a major setback. Although I was always practicing moves and busting my butt at practice, my coach doubted my abilities and decided to put me where he thought best. I was glued to the bench for my whole sophomore season. I decided this was B.S. so I quit altogether following that year, knowing that I would be benched at the varsity level. I left the game I loved and regretted it every year after. Playing basketball in college has always been a dream of mine, even if it was only NJCAA and not at a huge university. Once attending my community college for a couple months, I saw the opportunity and snatched it right up. Now, here I am, three-years off the court, busting my body in practice, starting every game, and playing until the buzzer screams at the game’s end. I’ve had this ginormous chip on my shoulder, from losing our final game in middle school that determined if we were undefeated that season, and from living on the bench my sophomore year of high school when it really counted. If I can get through those setbacks, I can persevere through this. If you’re on a team of some sort and are reading this, please do me one favor. Love your teammates. Don’t help them lose their love for the game. Don’t be the reason they write an Odyssey article trying to convince themselves that they belong on the court beside you. Reach out a hand when they fall down, instead of yelling at them for tripping in the first place. Treat them as family, even when it seems to be impossible.