Only athletes truly understand what it’s like to be a part of a team. High School sports are great because of the experiences they provide to who all who participate. The best things about high school sports are the lessons learned and memories shared with teammates. It’s hard to believe (and I’ll date myself here), but it’s been 18 years since my senior year of high school football. At halftime of the game tonight our team will be recognized for our achievements from our playing days. Reflecting upon this and my experiences made me think of the things you miss the most once your playing days are over. This week we’ll discuss the 10 things players will miss the most once sports are over.
- Being a part of a team. No matter the role you had, if you were on a team, you contributed to its success. Once it’s over, you’ll miss being a member of that team more than anything else. You won’t remember the score or outcome of every game you played in, but you’ll always remember what it felt like to be a member of the team. When you’re in the moment, or season, you take it for granted. Once it’s over you begin to miss it and the longer you’re removed from it the more you appreciate just how special it was.
- The process. Being a part of a team is where many first learn to love the process. By playing a sport we learn you can’t just show up and win; you have to put in work. Through high school sports we learn what that process is and that without it there is no success. The process includes the early morning summer workouts and summer camps. Man, do I miss those days. Some of the best times were just hanging out and goofing around during workouts. Anyone who ever attended a summer camp appreciates the hard work, camaraderie, and fun times shared during the camp. All of these small things were a part of the process that went into making the team successful.
- Bus rides. There is nothing quite like taking a bus trip to big game. The anticipation, quiet focus, and intensity are exhilarating. I remember the bus rides we took to all of our big games, especially the playoff games. Today’s athletes seem a bit different, but back when I played you didn’t talk on the bus if you lost. Fortunately those bus rides were few for me. And of course we all remember the bus rides home after a big win. I can still vividly recall the trips home after playoff road wins. We take them for granted while we’re playing but look back upon them with great fondness once they’re gone.
- The Inside Jokes. One of the great things about being on a team are the inside jokes that are shared. Whether its locker room pranks or funny stories, teammates often have great memories of the jokes. Once we’re finished playing we still experience inside jokes with various groups in our life, but they’re never quite the same as ones from our teammates. Inside jokes help make the glue that bonds teammates together, and they’re often the things brought first up when teammates get together.
- Team Meals. Part of our team’s traditions included Thursday night team dinner after our walk-through practice. On Friday a senior parent would host a spaghetti dinner after school before our game. I firmly believe these meals helped our team bond and were part of the winning culture we shared. Team meals provide the opportunity for inside jokes to exist. You just don’t get to experience anything else like team meals once your playing days are over.
- Moments Before The Game. Players live for the moments right before kickoff or tipoff. The pre-game speeches, team chants, running through the tunnel during pre-game introductions, and the singing of the national anthem all provide great moments. It’s these moments, after all the hours of practice, that make the preparation worth it.
- The Post Game Locker Room. One of the things I miss the most from my football days is celebrating in the locker room after a win. One of our traditions was to play Another One Bites The Dust on the stereo. The joy experienced in these moments is rarely duplicated later in life, and only the athlete truly appreciates them.
- The Challenge. We all experience challenges in our lives. Different phases in our lives bring different challenges, but few are as rewarding as the ones we face with our teams. Whether it’s the challenge of defeating an opponent or collectively becoming better as a team, few things are as rewarding as overcoming challenges as a team.
- Practice. When you’re playing you don’t think about it but when I look back I realize how much I miss going to practice every day. Now that I coach, I enjoy the practices just as much, if not more, than the games. Our football practices were fun. They were the best part of the day. It was a blast to play a game you love with your friends every day after school. I get to experience it as a coach, but I wish I could go back to the days when I played.
- Your teammates. We make new friends in the various stages of our lives, but there’s something special about the friends you have on your high school sport teams. For those in high school currently, cherish the time you have with your teammates. You’ll miss the meals, conversations between drills, goofing around, the atmosphere before the big game, and playing the game itself. But most of all, you’ll miss experiencing it all with your teammates.
I’m grateful for all the memories from my playing days, and for opportunity I have as a coach to experience many of the same things. Always remember that it’s the people who matter most, not the scoreboard.
What do you miss the most from your playing days?
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!
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