The phrase I say most often when coaching is, “I play for my self. I play for my team.” I have already covered playing for my self. If you missed it I urge you read it prior to this one. In this post I will cover what I believe it means to “play for my team.”
When I was first asked to assistant coach a 10u (10 and under) girl’s travel fast-pitch softball team (that’s a mouthful) I did not know what to expect. One of my favorite things to do is to teach people new things. My mom would say that I have been that way since I was a young fella. Naturally, I jumped at the prospect of being able to help teach a game that I love so much. “I played baseball, so surely I can coach softball,” was my exact thinking. What a dumb thought. And to anyone out there who has ever said coaching “looks pretty easy” or “it can’t be that hard” has, I believe, never truly done it.
FYI: I loved and played baseball, and while similar, softball is a bit different from baseball.
I Play … as an Individual on a Team
When we started building the team I was excited to see the level of talent we would be working with and the potential the team had right out of the gate. That, unfortunately, was not the case. Apparently, players with skills do not magically come together after tryouts and player selection and form a great team. What we had was a group of individuals who had two things in common: (1) they tried out and made the team, and (2) they love the game of softball.
Now do not get me wrong, they had all played on teams in the past. We had great ingredients for making a team. Nevertheless, they were merely a group of girls playing independently on what we called a team. It was going to take a high level of commitment and effort on the girls, coaches, and parents to build a team. A commitment that also needed some words to live by.
I Play … on a Team
After a few weeks of practices, the girls were starting to show signs of that they were coming together as a team. They could field the ball decently. Half the team could hit well, and the other half was progressing in their ability. They would occasionally cheer for each other and tell each other “good job.”
We were feeling pretty good about how the girls were playing. Then the first couple of tournaments came up. We quickly surmised that we were not as good as we thought we were. It was a hard truth and a sobering reality that we did not, yet, have a team. We still had a long road ahead of us.
I Play … for My Team
At the end of the season the girls finally started clicking. I would love to say that something finally clicked and the team turned into the T. C. Williams Titans, but that only happens in the movies. They did not win every game, nor did they not ever make another mistake, but the way the girls played for EACH OTHER changed 10 fold. They won and lost as a team. They had begun to feel each other’s triumphs and pain. They were finally playing as a team.
When asked the girls early in the season what it meant to “play for my team,” we received some good answers, but none that truly explained what I meant when I said it. When I asked them closer to the end, the understood a bit better. Time to explore the meaning behind the words:
- I play for my team.
- I play for my team when I respect my coaches. I trust they have the best interest of the team at heart and it is not personal.
- I play for my team when I respect my parents. I know they do more than I could ever know to help me and my team.
- I play for my team where they need me in the field or when I am at the plate to the best of my ability. I am not selfish.
- I play for my team when the coaches are explaining a position I might never play. I pay attention to all instruction.
- I play for my team when I cheer for my teammates on and off the field. I lift people up, not tear them down.
- I play for my team by not losing the mental battle when I strike out or make a bad play. I know I will fail; I will learn and do better.
- I play for my team when I give 100% of all that I have to give. I will leave it all on the field every time I play.
- I play for my team when I practice how I play. My practice time is the same as a game only I have more reps and time to learn. Games are not for practicing, they are for using what I have learned.
- I play for my team when I aspire to be great and inspire greatness on and off the field. I want my team to achieve more.
- I play for my team.
I Play … for More
When you take a step back and think about playing for a team we have a natural tendency to apply our thoughts towards a sports team. Playing for a team means so much more than that though. I am constantly reminded of all the teams I play for each day. I play for team Christ, team family, team marriage, team work, team volunteer, and so on. So quickly we can forget that the same words the girls live by in softball are some of the same words we should be living by in our daily lives.
When I am exhausted and struggling to keep going, I whisper to myself that “I play for my team”
Recently I have begun a more steady workout routine. It consists of alternating days of running and biking. When I find that I do not feel like doing either or I am exhausted and struggling to keep going, I whisper to myself that “I play for my team,” team family. When I wake up on a Sunday morning and feel like sleeping, I remind myself that “I play for my team,” team volunteer and people are counting on my being at church to serve. Ultimately, I play for team Christ and every thing I do is a direct reflection of Him in my life.
When the girls are at school they play for team student as they listen to their teachers and do their best to learn what they are being taught. When they are out in public they play for team responsible person and respect those around them and act like young ladies. When they are on the field they play for team QAB and they hustle do the best of their ability.
I know of several areas I need to put in more effort and play for my teams better. Think about the teams you play for in your own life. Do any of the statements above reflect things you are doing well? Where are you striking out because you are not willing to step up and play for your team? Every hour of every day remind yourself, “I play for my team.”