Someone asked a famous conductor of a great symphony orchestra which orchestral instrument he considered the most difficult to play. The conductor thought a moment, then said: “Second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists. But to find one who can play second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddles, we have no harmony!”

While working as a sport psychology consultant with a High School JV Baseball team in California, I was taken along on a sports story I won’t soon forget. I guess this is why I’m mentioning it here now(all stories belong in blogs). While working with the JV team a Varsity pitcher was “demoted” to our ranks. He loss his stuff. And it wouldn’t get any better down with us.

We had solid pictures: A 6′ 2″ lanky kid who had the “Randy Johnson” intimidation thing going on and threw just as well; another kid who looked so unassuming and chill, never up never down just even keel and always smiling, even on the mound, but was almost impossible to hit(he threw two complete game shutouts); and we had a stocky kid who threw the ball violently(he had heat) he reminded me of the old Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker.

So where would this kid fit? We gave him a look in an inter-squad game and it was like we were watching cricket how often his pitches would eat dirt before reaching the plate. His head slumped down. To say he was shaken by this demotion doesn’t even begin to describe well what we saw.

He said as much too. He hated being down with “the guys who can’t play!” This demoted pitcher and I began having one-on-one sessions and as the season progressed he still had yet to play in any of our games. Only being displayed on the practice mound. He never imagined that he would be “second fiddle” to JV players!       “I’m A Varsity Player!”

We were undefeated up until the very last game. Then things happened: the head coach was suspended from the final game, our school bus was cancelled, luckily the opposing team’s Varsity bus driver took us to the game with a mere 10 minutes before game time. Whew.

The game was very taxing. When the seventh inning came around we were down 2-1. We had a small run in the top of the seventh and went up 3-2. And guess who, because of various circumstances, on the bottom of the seventh had to save the game for us and pitch the remaining innings? Yup, the second fiddler/cricket enthusiast!

He struggled in the beginning through some stuff but he won us the game! 4-2(notice our opponents didn’t score again). And we made history. According to the school’s newsletter, our team was the first team in the school’s 41-year history to ever go undefeated. Guess who got the game ball.

A leader is about influence not position. Can you influence a game when you are in play!? This may be hard to understand but the team is the leader. A team can lead its conference, but the team(a true team) won’t and arguably can’t sustain a “leader” within itself viewed as authoritative based on a position given.

A team is one unit, like a body. But we all know that a leg can’t do what an eye can do. An eye can’t do what a hand can do. An eye can see where it wants to go but it needs the feet to get there. An eye can see what it wants to pick up but needs the hands to pick it up. The eye doesn’t have positional authority over the rest it just has influence in the realm of seeing. It does that well, and contributes to the goal of the team.

A team knows where its going already. However, what a team does need are athletes, coaches and ‘staff’ to fill influential roles and do it to the best of their ability. And when you fill your influential role as a leader, maybe you could get your game ball too.

I know what I’ve laid out could be in the top ten things athletes Do Not believe but team sports is BIGGER than any one athlete’s ego!

~

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2 Responses

  1. Keeping it simple, this is one of the greatest challenges for participants in team sports to understand. It truly isn’t all a matter of talent but the ability to come together for one purpose, one goal. You cannot fail if you do this. There is no question that accepting a “role” takes sacrifice. Yet that individual choice could be all it takes to catapult your team to Excellence. I didn’t say wins or victory or championships. Truthfully, those are side orders on the menu. The main course must be Excellence.

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