The ME in TEAM
What a responsibility! As a member of a team sport such as polocrosse, you play a key role in the success and failure of your team. I’d like to spend some time explaining how to be the best team player you can be. But first, let’s let go of some prior baggage…
We must as players understand that there are things in our control and then there are things out of our control. While you can influence your teammates through your actions on and off the field, you can’t control any of them. Let’s stop beating ourselves up and taking all the blame for the results on the scoreboard. As a three, for instance, it’s your job to defend the goal, but you must not forget that every goal scored upon you isn’t your fault. Let’s say your number one allows the opponents number one to snag the ball out of the lineup and they shoot down the field, bounce, trap, score. Was that your fault? Nope, not one ounce of that was your fault, even though you’re the one getting posterized (basketball dunking reference) and exerting a lot of your horse’s energy chasing that player down the field. I found often that the number three horse must do the most work. The offensive three carries the ball, but once there’s a turnover or a one misses a goal, my three horse must defend the other direction. On the other hand, if you’re the number three and the ball is thrown out the back of the lineup and you allow their number three to pick it up and a goal is scored, that’s your fault. I know what you’re thinking now! The point of these examples is to impress upon you the things in and out of your control. I’m not urging you to start blaming your teammates for each mistake made! I think that too many times, we as players get too down on ourselves for the things we can’t control. Our emotions may overflow and spill into negative actions towards our teammates on the field. Try not to allow this to become a regular occurrence.
Now that you’ve taken this opportunity to release some feelings of guilt while playing, let’s examine the things in our control, the ME in TEAM. The fact of the matter is that a prize fighting boxer isn’t made in the ring, but rather recognized there for the daily hours upon hours of training. You can control your preparation and you can’t control your teammates. There are many aspects of polocrosse, but these are the major ones: personal fitness, horse fitness, racquet skills and strategic team play. Picture the first three things listed above as the three building blocks for polocrosse, the foundation for which strategic play can rest atop. What I mean is that you can control how fit you and your horse are as well as the sharpness of your racquet skills. When I started playing polocrosse, I threw the ball annoyingly off the door to the upstairs of our house. Bang! Bang! Bang! I did this repeatedly and my racquet skills sharpened quickly. Polocrosse practices are not a time for getting your horse fit or improving your pick-ups, because those should already have been honed between practices. Practice is a place for you and your teammates to drill situational plays so that you’re ready for anything come tournament time. Secondly, practice is a place for putting those drills into game situations by scrimmaging against club members. Prepare hard in practice and the results will come. Michael Jordan used to practice so hard and competitively that he used to get into fights with teammates. Ultimately, because of his tough practice regimen, he found games against opponents easier. Similarly, when I joined Lone Star for practices in 1999, I was constantly pitted against a tough player, Paul Johnson. If he was the two, I was the other two. If I was the one, he was the three. Honestly, I think at the time, Prissy and Martha wanted a break from playing against him, so they pitted him against me. I look fondly upon those days. His intelligent and aggressive play tested and honed my skills. I was grateful for those opportunities. Hopefully, there’s someone better than you in your club to challenge you. Hopefully, there’s a coach with the common sense to run practices correctly. Practice isn’t just aimless scrimmaging. Practice is a time to blow the whistle and think about how a play could have been improved.
Call me old school and conservative and a grumpy old man, but I believe in looking professional at tournaments. Have clean whites on. I’m also a huge proponent for white polo wraps and white saddle pads. I think that they look the best. Come with clean tack. Wear a brim on your helmet, people! It looks better. You don’t need sunglass if you have a brim. It’s safer to use a face mask rather than sunglasses anyways. I never understood the no brim with sunglasses thing?! I’m sure it was just a cool thing, monkey see, monkey do. Well I was the monkey with a brim on. Call me a prude or whatever you’d like, but let’s clean this sport up and make it appeal for new players. Set the example for your team and encourage all the above for your teammates.
Back to what you can and can’t control. You can’t control how your teammates prepare, but you can set an example and encourage them to act professional and get sufficient sleep and curb excessive drinking. If you’re taking it seriously, they’ll follow suit, because they don’t want to let you down.
So, now go out there and be a better teammate and polocrosse player. Watch the results change when you start changing!
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