Gabe

Great teams across all sports share many qualities, but none of those qualities are more important and more translatable across the board than unselfishness. Great teams are about ‘we and me,’ and in a sports culture, at all levels, that has become increasingly about the individual, so many people have lost that attitude. Team sports are an inherently unselfish endeavor. You not only rely on your teammates as a player on the field or the court, but you rely on them as a human being in the locker room and away from the game as well. It’s so weird that something that at its best is so selfless has become increasingly selfish.

There’s many culprits that have led to this increasing selfishness in team sports. Some of it is the media, wanting to glorify only the individual, in some instances it’s a player who cares solely about their accolades, in some cases it’s the parents who preach to their kids that their stats are more important than any team success, and in some instances it’s the coaches who let selfish attitudes slide for one reason or another. In team sports the best teams and best players are unselfish people, it behooves all involved to be unselfish, yet many only care about themselves. 

I hear a lot of feedback in my position, there’s a lot of good, there is some bad and there is some bizarre. Among the bizarre things I hear is that I am being unfair to someone’s child but giving them the recognition that the parent thinks they deserve. In every instance that I’ve been told something along those lines it’s always involved an athlete in a team sport and it’s an incredibly selfish attitude that completely misses the point of athletics altogether. 

Among the best high school athletes I have covered during my time in Las Vegas are Mathew Gonzales, Briana Marquez, Lubby Marrujo, Maddie Griego, and Jayden Jenkins. There are several others that have stood out and fit this mold, but one thing those five athletes, all of whom are now playing in college, have in common is that they are not selfish people or athletes, they are about winning. Accolades and recognition came to them because all of those athletes were key players on highly successful teams in their high school careers, but that is not what they desired, they wanted to win. What those athletes and their families understand is that sports are bigger than the accolades and that the team is bigger than just their kid.

The toxic ‘me first, look at me I deserve recognition’ attitude that has taken over some of sports culture is sickening. We have decided that winning is no longer enough and that I or my kid must receive all of, or the lionshare, of the credit for any success while being absolved from any blame should they not win, is not what sports are about, and it’s not what the best athletes do. The best players who do a lot of the winning in team sports professionally, players like Tom Brady and Steph Curry, do the exact opposite. They deflect credit to those around them, teammates and coaches, while shouldering all of the blame publicly.  Sports is almost always a copycat industry where everyone attempts to copy whatever the best team or player is doing at that time. That applies to tactics, coaching hires, and in professional sports front office hires, but it never applies to the attitude of the athletes, and that’s perhaps the most important.

In college and professional sports coaches who have leverage are very quick to get rid of any player with a selfish attitude that could bring down the team. The reason why is because that attitude can spread throughout a locker room and can ruin any chance that team has of being cohesive. Players do not get cut for that at the high school level, nor should they. High school athletes are not and should not be held to the same standard as professionals or athletes on scholarship. However, a selfless attitude amongst the players is vital for long term success. One of the great things about sports is that you get to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself, part of the team. For so long that aspect was celebrated, now sports are filled with athletes and people who try to make themselves or the player they’re interested in bigger than the team. There is something special about being part of a great team, whether it’s athletics or otherwise, something where the group is greater than the sum of its parts. That is the definition of a great team. The best athletes understand that and attempt to help foster a selfless environment that brings out the best in everybody. Others, though, so badly want recognition or accolades that they would rather lose and have their contributions recognized than win and go under the radar. That attitude goes against the very thing that makes team sports great. No individual is bigger than the team they’re a part of, regardless of how good they are. Those who get that, get it, and those who don’t completely miss the point and are always left wanting more than what being an individual in a team sport can give you.

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