In the 1990’s, I was a teenager growing up in Towson, Maryland, and this was when I had some of the most important experiences as an athlete.
I was on the “B” Team.
My days on the Towson Tornadoes AAU Basketball team were some of the most important days in my sports life. I learned sound fundamentals from a strong female coach, I was given tools to increase my athlete IQ, and I had an awesome group of teammates- world class athletes who, on the basketball court, were “B” team level in Baltimore, Maryland. We were all on the team where we best FIT, and I don’t remember any questioning of our placement. I never really thought of it as a “B Team”, but in this case, B was for BEST.
In my adult life, I am watching parents and players completely unravel when they don’t make the “A” team. I hear words like “devastated,” “heartbroken,” and “crushed” used to describe someone’s reaction to a team placement as if it’s equal to going through an earthquake or a hurricane. These are people who weren’t even cut- they actually MADE a team. They have the opportunity to learn, to make new friends, to work with people from different backgrounds and with people who may have different future plans. Making a team means you GET to have an experience, and yet I am watching people completely walk away from a sport when they are placed on a team different from their friends.
In my home state, I have watched community sports disappear completely as off-season opportunities creep into local seasons and rec/high school programs creep into the off-season market. In some other sports, there is little diversity of level or ages on teams, so players never experience being the best on a team one year and the worst on a team another year. And this is now happening in lacrosse in our “non-traditional” areas. It’s becoming impossible for the young people to play, who are just looking to be active, to play for fun, to potentially play a role on the high school team someday. It’s as if you must be aiming for college or professional competition just to have that basic youth experience.
As I watch northern California lacrosse mobilize for the spring season, and as I track progress in Oregon, Utah, and Texas, I wonder if parents and players will notice the moment. I wonder if parent coaches will have the discipline to accept their daughter’s placement on the team where she fits rather than where he/she can manage to get her rostered. I wonder if both A and B team families will be equally engaged in programs regardless of their agreement with the team placement. Will the “B Team” girls spit in the face of what could be their most important team experience? Will there be gratitude for the opportunity to have these experiences at all?
I hope that there are future Parents, CEO’s, Judges, Professors, Doctors, Teachers, and Coaches out there who crush that B team experience on their way to becoming their Best.
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