No Heroes

Sion “Brummie” Scone discusses what it takes to be a team player.

Here’s a little experiment.  I want you to close your eyes (not yet, keep reading) and picture yourself playing ultimate in the future, playing at some event that you are going to be working hard for, playing in the “dream game” that defines your season, maybe your playing career.  It could be coaching your student team to the regional “Game to Go” match for the first time, maybe getting onto a big club or national team, maybe playing a big final. Allow yourself a good few minutes, play that over in your mind, allow the vision to develop.

Ok. Back in the room. What did you see?

I’ll bet most people saw themselves doing something positive (if you didn’t, you suck at visualisation – I do too – and you can help yourself
Furthermore, I will bet that most of you were not just doing something positive for your team, you were doing something incredible for your team.  Hands up everyone who pictured themselves burning deep for the score, skying a pack of defenders, ripping the perfect huck or hammer, getting a huge layout block, or maybe even the world’s first caught layout handblock Callahan. Whatever it was, I bet it looked pretty heroic. You were the player that made the difference. You are in Group A.
Now, how many of you saw yourself tirelessly shutting down cut after cut?  Or breaking a mark in the zone for the twentieth time that point?  Or running hard after the pull?  Or maybe, just maybe, not throwing deep to your favourite receiver in double-coverage, but instead hitting a reset and dragging your tired limbs downfield for yet another cut. At game point, you look off that closely guarded open side cut and instead break the mark, setting up an easy assist. You are in Group B.
Group A describes the player that everyone wants to be. Group B describes the type of player everyone wants their team-mates to be. Group A above are the players that will let you down when it counts.  Group B are the team mates that everyone needs.  Selfless individuals are great team mates; people who look at their stats more than the team results are not.
I recently overheard a discussion that went along the lines of “Would you rather be the best player at the tournament – and everyone knows it – but your team comes last, or, your team wins the tournament, but you personally only manage negative things, like turnovers and getting scored on?”.  Of course, all of the players said that they would put the team first.  But I think the fact that this conversation even takes place shows a deep-seated desire to be the hero.
My experiences coaching for the last eight years have brought me in contact with a lot of players who wanted, deep down, to be a hero.  Pichler wrote recently that if British teams want to “close the gap”, then it would take more people to take ultimate far more seriously than currently do.  Britney said in his Ultimatum interview last year that at the core of everything he does is commitment to training, hard work and dedication.  These two have played at the top of the game for long enough to know what they are talking about, so why do rookies always think that they need to do something special to make the grade?  Or that the job had already been done on the track, or in the gym, and when the tournament comes around, the opposition would see you line-up and capitulate in terror? It’s been said before with relation to tryouts, but some of the top skills that you will need to be a great player will be knowing your limits, and being coachable. If you can’t take feedback, you’re limiting your potential for growth. Everyone has played for a team with one player who keeps throwing that throw that they don’t have… and isn’t it tiresome?
Likewise, effort is vital. Anyone who goes to a tryout or serious tournament and needs to be reminded that it’s competitive sport and they need to put in some effort, just doesn’t have the right mental attitude.  And I don’t just mean physical effort, I mean mental too; focus on the person you’re marking, remember the force, get your body positioning right.  Remember our offensive systems and your role in them.  Effort, dedication. An unrelenting desire to outwork the opposition.  Do your job, and nothing more.  No heroes.  Turnovers are quickly racked up by wannabe heroes, all far too interested in “getting involved more” and “having an impact”.  The biggest tournament of the year, or final tryout before Nationals, is not the time to suddenly think you can throw something that you have failed every time in practice.  So why, oh why, does this always seem to happen?
Because of the thought experiment above.  
If someone dreams about playing at a tournament, dreams about getting a huge layout block and ripping it deep for the goal, the sideline exploding and everyone high fiving them, then guess what they are going to do when they catch the disc and someone busts deep?  They are going to jack it.  They are not going to look at field positioning, the poaches, the fact that they are struggling to get around the mark, or the 15 mph wind.  Their mind was made up before they even caught the disc.  We’ve all seen the huck to no-one, and smart defenders make a career of reading predictable, wannabe heroes.
The worst thing that could possibly happen for your team is to be full of players whose attitude is “we’re already awesome, why work harder?”.
For anyone wanting WUCC glory, or aiming for GB in 2015, my advice is simple: put the team first.
Nice one Brummie! Want more? Contribute by sharing, liking and commenting or even writing your own piece! 
DP @ tSG.

3 thoughts on “No Heroes”

  1. I discovered this a little late, but have absolutely bought into this philosophy in my coaching approach with Camden Ultimate this year. The results have been excellent, not only on the field, but also in the type of player we attract who is engaged by the Team First, No Heroes approach.

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