Are you a team player? I try but sometimes it is difficult to be altruistic enough to be a true team player in sport. The ultimate aim of any game is to win, that is why we take part and there is no denying it. Remember the old adage, quoted by parents and coaches alike “there is no I in team; it does ring true in sports that involve groups. For many years, I too have passed on this very same message to the boys of No 1 Son’s rugby team who did not score the actual tries or the conversions; trying to convince them they all did well as a squad.
The job of the wingers in rugby is to get the ball out and over the line. The job of the kicker is to convert the ball that is why it goes to him. The team are there to use their wingers and get the ball to them. In football it is exactly the same; the job of the striker is to score the goal, although anyone can score goal or try if they are in the right place. Netball is a little more formal as the ball is passed to the goal scorer or help scorer and only they shoot for goal.
I remember many years ago trying to work out who was eligible for an end of season trophy. A parent whose fast son had scored a lot of tries out on the wing was adamant there should be a special award for the top three scorers of which his son came third. I on the other hand was against this new award.
As all three would get awards for other commitments to the team it was not that they would leave the award ceremony with nothing. I put my vote behind the solid support award that went to 8 players; who may not have been high scoring in points, but in team value played a crucial part in each game. When they played, they were always in the right place and read the game well enough to know that if they passed to another player the team would score rather than keeping the ball. Without these guys getting the ball to the right people the tries would never have been made and the points never won.
At the time it caused a fair bit of acrimony but on the night of the awards not only the three top scorers came away with their own glory so did eight other boys who felt special at the recognition they too had unexpectedly received. Parents were enormously proud of their offspring who never normally got noticed because they were not playing in the glory positions. It was the reaction of the team that delighted me most; they were particularly praising including the three top scorers who were thrilled their team mates were also valued.
Mini Son is not a rugby player. He is very good at rugby, a very intuitive player who knows exactly where to be on the pitch and is fast enough to get the ball out and be a very high scoring winger. His passion however is football! His dream like many other boys is to be an international striker and play at the very top of the league and the country. Unfortunately for him he again is very intuitive and reliable so he is usually left in defence to field the last chance post before the goalie. A position he hates as he feels he misses so much play and the opportunity to strike time and time again.
He naturally was picked for the local area football tournament this week, trying to win the trophy for the school. Having stood on this same field for many years now; my final tournament I really hoped we could win something to show for all those years as supportive parent. For the first two games Mini Son was in defence prohibiting any would be opposition striker the chance of success. He ducked and weaved to claim the ball and twist it away. He has a repertoire of succinct little touches using his feet, his head and his chest to tap the ball to safety.
Changing the team around slightly he was moved for the third game to a midfield position which if nothing else challenged his fitness levels to the maximum as he ran the length of the pitch passing and saving and winning ball to pass to his team mates. He brought the ball into striking distance and provided several opportunities for the team to try for goal. He moved to the other end of the pitch in time to defend and block yet more opposition chances. He performed reverse kicks over his head to stop the ball going out of play and tackled bigger boys than himself squirreling around the melee before tapping it out to his supporting teammates.
The fourth game took place immediately following the third and with a swift change of sub the team remained the same; still in midfield he organised his team and encouraged them to be where they should be. He was quick to spot an undefended player and get the ball out to him or to mark up where the ball was most likely to land. The game although on a small pitch moved from end to end closely fought by both teams; a place in the final four at stake.
As this game ended we were called through for the pool results. The top two from each group would go on to play the final games. Sadly we were beaten by just one point into third place so would be going home. Thanks were said to the youngsters from the top school who had put the games together refereeing them, line judging and scoring. Thanks to the hosts and the adults who had helped. Then the organiser surprised us by announcing she had had the youngsters out watching the games to choose 4 players for her special sportsmanship medals. These medals were for players who did not hog the limelight, played as a team player and supported their teamates.
A hush fell over the assembled children as she called out “Mini Son” along with three other boys. They were called up to receive their medals and returned to our team
where I just had enough battery left in the camera to take a wobbly couple of proud mummy photos.
As a mummy I know we went home with the top prize, but for the car full of miserable players I tried all the old placations “it is the taking part that counts, you came first or second in all the games you played, it was an afternoon out of school.”
Finally it was the chocolate biscuits and the promise to drive slowly back to school and miss the afterschool SATS club that seemed to ease the pain of not winning. Each child however had a little wear of the medal giving them all a share in the pride and delight of being part of the team to win the team player medal.
So for all those years of standing on the cold, damp sidelines of primary school pitches I am as proud as any parent with a medal that encompasses all the altruistic team play and finally a win.
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