There is something unique about a teammate. Sometimes one of your teammates is your best friend, and that’s a fantastic relationship to have. However, even if you aren’t joined at the hip or spending all of your free time together, you will never forget them. Why? Because teammates share a bond that can hardly be replicated in other settings.
It’s the 6:45 a.m. practices, the grueling pre-season workouts, and the 6-hour bus rides that give you an insight into a person that wouldn’t be seen in a classroom or at a party. It’s watching someone push themselves to their physical and mental breaking point and helping them forge ahead. It’s being that person who is down and knowing that your teammates will be there to pick you up if you fall. Being on a team means giving a group of people everything you possibly have and not knowing if it will be enough--but you do it anyway. You do it because it isn’t just your success on the line. You do it for the person standing next to you.
In ten years from now, you may not speak to every teammate you’ve ever had, but you won't forget them either. There is something about spending three hours every day in a gym (or on a field) with the same people that leave a lasting impression on you.
A teammate is different than a friend. Here’s why.
1. They share in your successes (and failures).
You spend weeks preparing for that big game. Every second spent on the court or field is aimed at defeating that one opponent. It consumes your thoughts for days leading up to it. On game day, there is a stir of nervous excitement; you’re ready to take on the challenge together. The game comes and goes…and if you were victorious it is a feeling of complete exhilaration. Your hard work paid off and celebrating with teammates after a huge win is (in my opinion) one of the greatest feelings in the world. You’ll never forget that time you were the underdogs and beat a team ranked higher than you. You’ll remember standing, sweaty and out of breath in the locker room with your teammates who are cheering as loud as they can because all of the scouting, preparation, and perseverance was worth it.
2. You feel a sense of accountability towards each other.
You will never forget that victory, but you will never forget that time you lost either. Sometimes all the preparation wasn’t enough. Sometimes, even after working so hard in a game that you feel nauseous after, the results are still not in your favor. In my opinion, it is the losses that are even more impressionable than the wins. You will never forget watching a teammate cry tears of frustration because they worked that hard, and it just wasn’t enough. You will never forget sitting silently on the bus ride home going over every missed layup, free throw, turnover, or mistake that could have been avoided. In the back of your head, you know that these mistakes didn’t cost you the game, but you just can’t stop reliving them over and over again. You will never forget your teammates because even in a situation as frustrating as that, you were all in it together. It wasn’t your burden to bear alone, and you could take comfort in the fact that there would be more games to focus on too.
3. You will forever be apart of something that was greater than yourselves.
A teammate is different from a friend because he/she is constantly pushing you to do better and be better. It’s watching a teammate get up at 7 a.m. to go shoot or workout, and making sure you put in extra work that day too. Without even saying a word, we push each other to go the extra mile even on our worst days. On a team, no one wants to be the “slacker” who does the bare minimum while his/her teammates are giving it their all. That is why the relationship we have with our teammates is unforgettable because without even saying a word we can motivate one another to be the best versions of ourselves.
It's cliché, but it's true. For the majority of the year, every year, you are pushing your body and your mind to its limit in order to achieve success. The best part of it though is that you are never alone. Through being an athlete, specifically in college, I have had the opportunity to experience what it is like to work towards a collective goal every single day. You wake up with your teammates, practice with your teammates, eat dinner with your teammates, then get up the next day and do it all over again. You do this because you all share a collective passion for the game, and put every ounce of energy you have into it. Your teammates share this passion, and that is why they are different from your friends.
Sports, particularly college sports, are essentially a full-time job. They dictate your class schedule, your social life (if you even have time for one), and to an extent, your sleeping schedule. Playing a sport provides you with highs, lows, and everything in between. Even if you retire and don’t speak to some of your teammates after graduation, you will never forget them. You will remember that time one of them hit the buzzer beater and you all went out to celebrate. You will also remember that time you put your arm around a crying teammate who gave it his/her all but still came up short. Regardless of whether you were on a team with a fantastic record or one that struggled to reach .500, you will not forget your teammates. They will leave a lasting impression on you for years and years to come.