Building Winning Teams: The Player

No Team Without a Player

This is the second part of a series I began on January 3, 2012. The first part on "Building Winning Teams" focused on the coach and his or her role and influence on selecting and developing the winning teams by investing in and working with teams of players.

This segment focuses on the players themselves because as I said in the answer to the opening question to part 1 (What Makes Great Teams?) "The answer is obvious and simple. Great team members make great teams." So, here we are, taking a look at the contribution players make in "Building Winning Teams" and some of the great players who achieved this feat.

My Personal Opinion as a Former Player and Coach

I have been very, very fortunate in my lifetime to have been able to participate in organized sport as both a player and as a coach. Undoubtedly, my favorite role was that of a player because in my humble opinion there are few experiences as exhilarating and rewarding as playing the game, whatever game that might be. As a player, player/coach and fan of organized sport for more 50 years I can say that I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to players so I have some reference point to offer my opinion.

Since this is such an incredibly broad topic I am going to take some editorial liberties in order to keep this hub within reason. Therefore, I hope you won't mind if I cross over between amateur and professional sports. A true sport fan would cringe at this idea, but then I stopped being a true sport fan in 2011 when the NFL teams and players fought about money at the expense of the fan, whether that fan was willing or not! (That's a different story for a different day!) So, sit back and enjoy. If you agree or disagree, please feel free to leave a comment. (Respectfully please? I once was a fan too, remember?)

The criteria I adopted for the the type of player that helps "Build Winning Teams" is the same regardless of amateur or professional. I may have had to measure them somewhat differently because of the differences in the environments and game but essentially the criteria is interchangeable. It is:

  • Be a player of character and distinction - This is a player that plays and lives with integrity. He's the same guy or gal off the field as he/she is on the field. And, their character (the person they are when no one else is looking) fosters their reputation and not the other way around. The distinction part of this player is what separates them from the average player when all other things are equal. Things like helping others play better, collaborating as well as competing and playing for the good of the game, being a student of its history and assisting in promoting it as a game to be played with honorable outcomes!
  • Be a player with whom others enjoy playing - We're talking about team sports here, for the most part. so who wants to play on a team, or play against for that matter, a poor sport? Sportsmanship seems to have gone out the window many years ago, even though there are flashes of brilliance here and there today. Great teams are developed with players who are not only technically sound mechanically, but also those who enjoy playing together. You know, they have chemistry, on and off the field. Some of my best memories of organized sport were on good teams with great chemistry. This chemistry is also what makes the game fun because the players seem to know what's going to happen before it actually does and when it does, oh boy howdy, is that ever cool!
  • Be a player who is coach-able and willing to learn - Most everyone can recognize the difference between talent and desire. Great players have both but great teams are often made up of good players with the desire to be great. (I have to mention this here because it does stand out for this element of a great player. Even though he may not fit all of my criteria for a truly great player he is for this element and in the eyes of so many fans, Michael Jordan wasn't a player in his younger years that possessed great natural ability. He simply worked his butt off and became an icon is professional sports. He will always have my admiration for acceding to the level of play because of his work ethic and in the next category for his ability to elevate the status of the game of basketball.)
  • Be a player determined to play the game and to elevate the games status as well as your own - No matter what game you play, the game is always bigger that you are. No contest there, right? However, there are and have been certain players who not only elevated the quality of their personal game, but also the quality of the teams play and the overall opinion of the game in the fans mind. Every sport's fan identifies with player and a team. Some though have caused fans to identify with the sport, just because of who they were. Hockey is a great sport, but even those who couldn't name a team knows the great Wayne Gretzky who in my opinion elevated the game of hockey because of how he played the game.

And The Winner Is

In view of the above criteria and because of my desire to send the message that great players help 'Build Winning Teams" on and off the field, my unanimous selection for the type of player that helps "Build Winning Teams" for 2011 goes to Andrew Rodriguez, Linebacker - United States Military Academy at West Point. (see link)

Not only do I have great admiration for great players, I have admiration for great players who are great men too. Now you might say that it's awfully early to be calling Andrew Rodriguez great, and that may be true, but what I'm trying to portray are the qualities that help build winning teams and that, of course, includes those teams that comprise our military forces. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the other finalists for this award came from our country's Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

I have included below the link for the National Football Foundation's William V, Campbell Trophy and I encourage you to go there to see the other fine men, many of whom might one day fulfill all of the other criteria that awaits them historically with honors and distinctions far greater than they would receive here.

Lists of the Best of the Best

When it comes to sports, there are lists upon lists upon lists. There are probably even lists of statisticians now. Being the sportsman that I am today, I decided quite naturally to offer you a few...well...lists! But they are good ones and if you browse through them they will take you back in time or at least give you a thrill. What you will read, see or hear will be some of the greatest athletes we've known.

Granted, I was unable to list all of our favorite sports or sports heroes, but this is what I grew up with and it really was fun putting it all together. The accomplishments of these athletes is simply incredible! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

The 50 Greatest Baseball Players Ever

Last But Certainly Not Least

I would be an idiot (don't go there) to leave out the 100 greatest female athletes ever! When you peruse this list you will be amazed and I greatly appreciate TopEnd Sports for their presentation of this list as it was incredibly difficult to find a list of women athletes that wasn't slanted toward sex. These women are finely tuned athletes who deserve recognition for their athletic achievements apart from any gender orientation so I'm grateful for their magazine.

Hammerin Hank

Henry Aaron
Henry Aaron | Source

One of My Favorites

In 1970 I received an invitation from the Cincinnati Reds to come to a camp in Harleysville Pa. to tryout. At 17 years old, this was a pretty big deal. I was a pitcher back then and I thought I was going to play in the World Series one day. Well, as we all know, life doesn't always work out the way we think it will and it didn't for me that day either.

I guess I'm telling you this because not everyone makes it to the "Show," the "big leagues," but some do and when they do their world changes. Some of these people however are a notch above the rest and they leave their mark on the rest of us. I would have to say of all the players I have watched over the years Hank Aaron exemplified the type of player I would like to have been. He carried himself with poise and dignity as you will read if you check out his bio on the link provided. I hope you do! He loved to play the game and he played it at the highest level imaginable for a very long time. When he was done playing the game he stayed in the game and helped others enjoy baseball as he did. Reading his comments when Barry Bonds broke his home run record attest to Hank Aaron's greatness and to his greatness for the game of baseball.. It's a cool story about a skilled player and a really good human being!.

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