Would you choose to be the worst player on a winning team or the best player on a losing team?

To be honest, neither one sounds like a good choice to me.

It’s no fun to be on a winning team if you don’t a get a fair chance to prove your worth. If people see someone sitting on the end of the bench, the assumption might be that the person is the worst player. Let me just say some people sit at the end of the bench because they are tired of their teammates arguing over the chairs in the middle. These same people build up endurance in the off-season and dominate in summer leagues. They rest on their determination and not on their parents’ influence. They also know when it’s pointless to waste time on a team focused on one thing or one person.

Which is why it isn’t fun to be on a losing team if you are the best player either. The pressure to succeed is compounded by the lack of initiative from others and the responsibility to carry everyone to victory. Top players are targeted by other coaches with double teams to shut the player down. It isn’t an easy position to be in physically or emotionally.

But, I will say, there is nothing like watching an athlete win in spite of personal odds. A few years ago, my middle son’s baseball team won the championship. Easily, he was the “worst” player on the team. His physical and mental limitations prevented him from being able to make the big plays, although he did catch an amazing fly ball. Yet, even though the biggest victory for him was getting first place, the biggest one for me was watching the coaches, teammates, and parents accept my son regardless of his abilities. When he stood up at the season-end party and gave a short-and-sweet speech about the best (and last) baseball season of his career, he touched the hearts of everyone in the room. Ending his baseball career then meant sealing an enduring memory in his mind.

He moved on to other sports, where he has dominated through his determination and training. He took second in his first Special Olympics bocce ball tournament today. One of the coaches snapping pictures said, “Look at his smile. That is what it is all about.”

I wholeheartedly agree!

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