Unless you've been hiding out in some kind of vast wilderness area with no internet, you know that Feb. 4 is Super Bowl Sunday, and that once again, our beloved New England team is competing. Or at least Tom Brady is. Major media seems to forget that one man does not comprise an entire team. Not in the NFL and not in high school sports, either.
It can be easy to forget that, especially when it seems that all the focus falls on a particular player, so this is a shout out to those standing just outside the glow of the spotlight. Why? Because it's important that they know their jobs matter, too.
There is an assumption that non-starting players in a sport must somehow be lacking, be it in skill, strength, or passion. While potentially true in some cases, in many the assumption is just that: a guess. A judgment, and one that is more often than not false.
Don't believe me? Next time you're at a high school game, take a few minutes to cast your eyes not on the on-field, on-ice, or on-court action, but instead on the bench. Watch those who typically exist behind the scenes and you'll see key contributions happening that matter to the outcome of a game in spite of the fact that those contributions are taking place on the sidelines.
For example, there's the basketball player who'd love nothing more than to hone his skills through more playing time, but understands the need to keep the more experienced players on the court. To ensure they keep up their energy, he makes sure during each timeout that they've got water. When they're back on the court, he cheers them on throughout the game, celebrating in their victories and commiserating with them after tough losses.
On another team, a player is sidelined with either an injury or an illness and will have to sit out most of the season. Quitting the team isn't an option, even though she'll see no playing time whatsoever. Instead, she keeps statistics, watches plays, and offers important advice at halftime.
No one sees the names of these student athletes in the papers. If they're in a photo, they're in the background. But their contributions are key and worthy of recognition, especially in a society that forgets far too often that teams are more than a headliner.
So, to all those “riding the pine” more often than you'd like, know that you're not invisible. You matter. You make a difference, and in so many cases, you're the unsung heroes of the team. You're the morale boost, the extra set of eyes, the backbone if not the heart of the team.
I think what I appreciate most about these athletes in particular is that, perhaps because they know their playing time is limited, when they do get into a game they savor every second. They strive to put into the game all they've learned not only in practices, but also during their time along the sidelines, right along with their unwavering passion for a game they might not get to play enough, but cherish all the same. Gratitude is everything.
While it might seem in media big and small that all cameras are trained on the shining stars, know that there are those of us who see the bigger picture, the one that extends beyond the lines within which play takes place to the sidelines and the hidden greatness happening there. We see you. I see you. This is your spotlight. Enjoy the glow. You deserve it.