Play Of The Game

So, my son and I recently went to a High School basketball game that his school’s varsity team was competing in.  The team they were playing, historically, has generally been a very competitive and tough opponent.  When we walked into the opposing team’s gym, I immediately made the observation that the guy shooting at the far end of the court was their best player.  While I had not seen this team play, I could tell by his skill set, and his body language, that he was the best player for the other team.  I will refer to him as TR for the rest of this post.

Well, as fate would have it, we somehow ended up sitting right behind TR’s family in the crowded bleacher section.  It didn’t take long to notice that TR made frequent eye contact with his dad throughout the opening minutes of the game.

I realized later, that due to some unfortunate relational conflicts with the newly minted coach, TR was the ONLY senior on his team.  Through yet another conversation I had in the bleachers, these other seniors had all played with TR over the years, and their senior year was supposed to be a year of success and achievement.  However, with TR being the only senior that was willing to tough out the new coach’s approach to the game, his team was clearly outmanned.

I quietly observed TR’s Dad intently focused on every aspect of the game; questioning the referee’s calling of fouls, violations, etc., and the frustration was obvious…not only for the home team’s fans, but also for TR and his Dad.  TR was his team’s only hope at being competitive, and TR definitely did his part while he was in the game.  The only problem was, he quickly got in foul trouble, and about midway through the 3rd quarter, he picked up his 5th foul, which, at the High School level, is the maximum amount of fouls a player can accumulate, and at that point, he was forced out of the game.

As I continued to silently observe TR’s body language, as well as his families, in particular, his dad, I noticed something after a few minutes of TR sitting on the bench, that, in my opinion, is what I will refer to as THE PLAY OF THE GAME!  While TR had put forth a valiant effort, he was now dismissed to the end of the bench, where he sat helplessly, unable to contribute and help his team.  After a few moments passed by, most likely, after the adrenaline and the intensity of the game started to subside for TR and his Dad, I noticed his Dad motioning towards TR.  I became very curious as to what this subtle effort to get his attention was all about.  Finally, I realized that TR’s Dad was motioning to his son to now take an active role in cheering on his teammates!

Needless to say, I was in awe of this gesture of sportsmanship.  Even though there were obvious struggles with the coach, even though TR was playing his senior year WITHOUT his fellow senior teammates, even though there was an 8th grader playing in TR’s stead, even though TR’s team was getting beat by over 20 points, TR’s Dad was simply encouraging his son to cheer on his teammates.

The moral to this story is this, regardless of whether you have an active, or inactive role, you still have an obligation, dare I say an important role, in still cheering on your team!  Good teammates cheer on, and encourage their teammates in spite of how great or small their role might be on the team.  When superstars are injured, or unable to play in a game, I’m always observing them, and how they support their teammates.  Are they there high-fiving them when they all come to the sidelines for a timeout?  Are they clapping their hands whenever the person that replaced them does something good?  Or, are they disengaged and emotionless, merely sitting on the bench.

Think of someone that you can cheer on, and encourage this week.  Think of a teammate, a fellow volunteer in your organization, that you can encourage and that you can hopefully inspire!  Send a handwritten note or card to someone you know on your team that might be struggling or going through a hard time.  Send a text message.  Pick up the phone and make a call.  Take someone on your team out to lunch, and just let them know that you support them!  It’s up to you, the ball is in your court now!  Just do it!  Go and make the play of the game! 

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