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Abandoning Team Responsibilities for Money Isn’t Cool

“There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM.’” If we got a penny for each time we heard this statement, we could retire to a dream home somewhere in the Caribbean. Apparently, this saying is going in one ear of some high school athletes in New York and out the other. There seems to be a growing cancer infecting these athletes – one of selfishness and greed – and it threatens to cripple the viability of high school track meets.

Athletes in general thrive on school spirit and school pride. They train, sacrifice and perform so that their schools can shine. Their rewards are top honors for their school, medals and sometimes a trophy, possibly a scholarship to a good college or university.

Unfortunately, there is also another set of athletes whose idea of ‘TEAM’ is one that consists of ‘me, myself and I.’ Such athletes will only participate in high school meets if there is nothing better to do. Something better means anything that has a cash value attached to it.

The recent Mayors Cup Athletics Championships is a case in point. After many athletes worked hard to prepare themselves, ran and qualified for some finals, they found themselves stranded on the tracks because some of their teammates abandoned them in favor of money. Those athletes were off to participate in another meet that pays a cash prize to whoever qualifies and wins in that meet. This action, therefore, robbed their stranded teammates of the opportunity to compete because each relay needs four runners and two had jumped ship to get paid elsewhere.

Should not be allowed

If this kind of behavior is allowed to continue, it will lead athletes to think that all that matters is monetary reward. There is nothing wrong with participating in cash-for-talent meets. However, athletes must understand that if they are committed to their school team, the team must come first. Parents, teachers and coaches must commit to instill a sense of pride, discipline and priority in athletes. Otherwise, they will fail. High school is not where money-chasing should begin. It is the place where students learn to excel academically, and develop discipline, leadership skills, the ability to function in a group/team, and respect authority, much of which is acquired through sports.

When this sort of thing happens, of course, it is debatable regarding who gets the bulk of the blame: coaches, athletes or the parents. Athletes need to remember that someone paved the way for their ascendance. They need to understand that younger athletes will be faced with the same sets of challenges and are looking for role models. The athletes who recently jumped ship and headed to that other meet need to think for a moment about the feelings of their teammates. Remember, there is no ‘I’ in TEAM.

Role of coaches, parents

Coaches need to start enforcing their authority by applying the academic-rule concept. That is, if a student-athlete does not meet certain requirements, he or she is dropped from the team. That includes the behavior in this recent incident. The flipside, of course, is that coaches want to win championships and in some instances are prepared to sacrifice discipline for the outright selflessness of championship recognition.

Parents are not blame-free either. Those who remove student-athlete from school meets should understand that when their child is scheduled to compete at a track meet, it is equivalent to being in school. If a child is a part of a team, he or she should behave as such and seek the coach’s permission to leave the meet.

One of the meanings of TEAM is: Together Each Achieves More. No more profound is that concept than when teams win championships. No matter how great an individual athlete may be, championships are won by team effort. Good athletes win medals, great athletes win championships, and championships bring recognition.

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