Playing a varsity sport at the high school or college level is a great honor and privilege for an elite few that excel in their respective sport. Being part of one of these programs is the exception—not the rule. In order for a program to excel, it is absolutely critical that the individual conforms to the team and not the other way around. There is no “I” in team. That may sound cliché, but it is the backbone that binds teams together when they are at their best, whether it be the US military, the NY Yankees or a high school baseball team. The minute who you are becomes more important than what you are a part of, the fabric of that team begins to come unraveled.
One of the hardest things a coach often has to do is not teach skills but to break a strong-willed person of their individuality in order to make room for love of one’s team. You need look no further than this year’s University of Kentucky men’s basketball team to see what happens when ‘me’ becomes more important than ‘us’. Coaches who truly care about their players and their team go to great lengths to develop rules and policies that foster this idea. They also prepare their players to stand above the norm as they represent not only their school, but their community, and most importantly their program. When you put on that jersey, you do not just represent your team but everyone—past, present and future—that has, or ever will, wear that jersey.
For a group of Facebook warriors to join an ill-advised parent’s call to WLKY in voicing outrage over our local program having a rule against long hair is just sad. Combined, they have all undermined a coach and divided a team before they ever suit up for their first game. Even sadder is the fact that a large contingency of that group has never even been to a MCHS baseball game to show support in the first place, or took the time to understand what it takes to build a successful program and culture in team sports.
It may appear to some as a stupid, antiquated rule and plenty of programs don’t have it. However, it would be worth mentioning that not only is this not a new rule locally, but it is also one embraced by high school and college teams across the nation and even the NY Yankees. Just because the world is changing or this is 2021 doesn’t justify changing the culture of the program. Ranging from the military to sports programs, what may seem to be arbitrary rules are often put in place because they are time tested inputs that eventually reward those willing to make such sacrifices with far greater outputs. Whether it was myself being forced to wear a tie to class the day before our games in college, or a new recruit in the military having his head shaved and being forced to learn how to properly make a bed, there are countless examples of such rules and edicts of successful teams that have demands of their “recruits” that have absolutely no impact on their performance on the macro level, but have huge impacts on the micro level. First and foremost is breaking them away from their mother’s bosom so they can freely embrace the concept that nothing, including themself, comes before one’s team. Not embracing this basic lesson will ensure nothing short of failure of one’s team in the heat of battle—regardless of whether it is baseballs or bullets flying past one’s head.
It may seem absurd or asinine to many of you, but that is also why few ever earn a letterman’s jacket. As a former college athlete, let me tell you that if you find you can’t accept, little alone pass muster on these menial hurdles, then don’t even think of trying to push your child towards elevating themselves to play at the college level. Maybe buy them a guitar and push them towards forming a garage band. Yet, then again, I hear the music industry is even more lethal when it comes to imposing their mandates upon one’s image.