Athletes are Worth More Than Their Abilities (Odyssey Article 6)

It’s finally published! Check out my 6th article for Odyssey!

 Athletes are Worth More Than Their Abilities

Because “Hard Work (Should) Beat Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard” – Tim Notke

Hall of Fame basketball player and coach John Wooden once said, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

More often than not, an athlete’s worth is only defined by one thing… The sport. Sadly, coaches, parents, fans, and even teammates look past who the athletes are as people and focus solely on their talents or lack thereof (a.k.a their reputations). However, an athlete’s character speaks volumes more than one’s reputation. Take O.J. Simpson, for example…

He was one of the best college and then professional football players of his time. Later, he was acquitted for the murders of two people (which he most likely actually committed), and now, he’s in jail for other crimes. His reputation as an all-star football player is forever overshadowed by his questionable character as a person.

Every so often, an article scrolls across my news feed dedicated to the coach who negatively impacted an athlete’s life. One of the first articles I read, A Letter to the Coach Who Broke Me, I shared with this response:

I’ve played ball for a long time, and I’ve had coaches all over the spectrum. I’ve even had a couple who resemble the one this girl talks about. While most of my passion and much of my confidence is gone, my love for the game won out, and I’m still playing. But I have advice to give. If you are miserable somewhere, truly miserable, leave. Find somewhere or someone else to play for. No amount of playing time or money is worth sacrificing your happiness. As well, if you dream of coaching, make mental notes of all the bad and/or ridiculous things you endured and become the coach you always wished your coach was. Be inspired by your good coaches because they are few and far between. Don’t let anyone take your fire and your passion away from you. Fight for it. Prove the people who doubt you wrong and go make a name for yourself at a place and with people who know they are lucky to have you and who push you to be your best. You are good enough, and you are worth it.

It isn’t uncommon for coaches to only care about the reputations of themselves and their teams with little regard for individual player’s characters. It is unfortunate because this is how most dedicated athletes’ passions burn out. I was once in the shoes of the kid who busted her butt every day in practice but who was out-shined by players with less work ethic and more skill, and nothing was more frustrating and disheartening, especially as a young player.

Just like players should appreciate good coaches, I believe coaches should appreciate good players who are good people. I’m not saying someone who can barely dribble a ball or someone who doesn’t know the difference between short stop and right field should play every game just because he/she works hard in practice. However, coaches acknowledging the positive attitudes, the extra minutes spent before or after practice, the constant hustle, etc. from players at any skill level works wonders for both personal and team moral because those things aren’t taught. They come from a player’s character — one’s diligent nature and his/her desire to do more.

Yes, the goal of every sport is to win, but so much more goes into that. Every athlete expects perfection from himself or herself, and he/she understands the coaches and everyone else also expect perfection. However, we are all people.

We are human, we are not perfect, and we will make mistakes.

In being human, athletes have abilities and characteristics in more than just the sports. Some are great speakers and motivators, some are delightfully funny, some would give the shirt off his/her back and the rest of the outfit to anyone in need, and the list goes on. These character traits only boost an athlete’s reputation within the team and otherwise.

Judging an athlete only by his/her athletic ability is belittling his/her worth as a person. Many legendary athletes accomplish more than most of us could even imagine, but it takes a special person to become a special athlete. These athletes know their worth as people and turn that positivity and motivation into a drive for their sports.

Coaches, understand your players as people and help them to find their confidence and their worth on and off the playing field. A “winning” reputation isn’t worth undermining the good spirits and passions of your players.

Parents, you know your players’ hearts; nurture them into the players and people they want to be.

Fans, watch the game for the love of the sport and the passion for the sport each player shares with you. They are more than just your entertainment.

Teammates, walk in each other’s shoes; build your teammates up like you’d want them to build you.

Athletes, play because you love your game, and know the difference between your worth and your ability. Some days, you’ll be the worst, and other days, you’ll be the best, but no one can take your positive attitude and work ethic away from you. Your reputation has nothing on your character because your character will take you to the places of your dreams.

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