An athlete’s attitude

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People enter into athletics for a myriad of reasons. Some want fame, others want money, still others do it for exercise, and some do it because it is fun. However, for me athletics means none of those things.

I will admit that as a child I dreamt of being Derek Jeter’s successor, and becoming as wealthy and famous as he was. I enjoy sports of all kinds, but that is not the primary reason that I compete athletically.

I compete because I want to win. Most athletes will agree with that. No athlete goes into a competition with a desire to lose; that would be ludicrous. The objective of any game is for one side to win, and it is the athletes’ job to do their best to give their side the best chance for success.

The most valuable thing athletes can do is accept whatever role gives their team the best chance to win. I have played several different sports in my life with roles varying from starter to benchwarmer. In every circumstance I went out and did as I was told, even when I disagreed with my assignment, because I wanted to win.

For example, in high school I started for four years playing wingback in soccer. At first I hated it because I thought my skills were being misused. I was usually one of the fastest players on my team — by my final year I was the fastest — and I had a decent shot too. Needless to say I preferred to play offense, but my coaches also saw that I was tough, mentally and physically, and I was not easily fooled by attacking players.

I was resigned to my fate, accepting that this was my role on the team. As my first season progressed, I began to understand my position, and by the time my second season came around, I actually looked forward to protecting my turf against opposing attackers. By my final season, I had become both of my coaches’ favorite player, and perhaps the most valuable player on the team. As my coaches had said to me, it would have been an entirely different team without me, and not in a good way.

This same grim determination to do as I was told, even if I was displeased by it, carried over to my year playing in community college. I was placed in several different positions until my new coach came to the same conclusion my high school coaches did, and partway through the season I became a starting wing defender. I never complained, but I did ask why I was placed where I was, and my coach told me it was because I had value.

Ultimately, it did not matter where I preferred to play; it only mattered to me that I was helping my team achieve victory. I had the mentality that I was going to do as I was told, and that was that. The goal was to win the game, not to make myself happy by getting my own way.

I am not the only person to have this sentiment. Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams was quoted earlier this season as saying:

“All that matters to me is a Super Bowl ring.  I’m going to do whatever my coach tells me I need to do … If it’s be a wide receiver, be a running back, be the water boy, take out the trash … Whatever it takes to get to the Super Bowl.”

This should be every athlete’s attitude.

As General MacArthur said, “there is no substitute for victory.”  That is the objective I set out for every time I walk onto the field.  All I can do is fulfill my role, and maybe, just maybe, it will be enough to leave with the coveted win.

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