Embracing roles, cultivating your team

Here is what I love, hands down, about covering college sports — when teams commit to the idea that the sum is greater than its parts. Of course everyone wants to have fantastic stat lines and win honors and awards. They wouldn’t have reached this level of sports if they weren’t driven to succeed and we traditionally measure success by numbers.

But the teams that have success are the ones in which players buy into their roles. In college basketball that means setting screens, diving for loose balls, tipping a pass. Those things don’t show up in the box score. It’s cliche to talk about those intangibles but we talk about them because they are so nuanced, so vital, so difficult to measure.

A few years ago I covered St. Bonaventure’s women’s basketball team in their first NCAA tournament and you know who some of the most important players were? Not the leading scorers but the players who averaged 1.2 minutes per game. The players who sat at the end of the bench. The “scrubs.” They were important because they showed up every day in practice to make those leading scorers, the starters, the stars, better. If they didn’t take their roles seriously, the starters would never improve. They would never be ready for critical games.

I’m back at the NCAA tournament, this time covering the University at Buffalo women in their first appearance. And again, the key to their success has been depth — the commitment of team, the trust that your teammate has your back.

It’s a theme that motivates my own season of training for two marathons in 2016.

Yes, running is technically a solo activity. But I have so many people who support me, people who encourage me, who pick me up when I’m down, who keep me from making terrible mistakes (see: trying to run 10 miles with a fever). They are my team. You may not see them, like the players at the end of the bench, but without them I would never make it to a starting line let alone a finish line.

And as sports is microcosm of life, the same can be said for my “team” outside the athletic realm. We all need support. We all need a hand up. We all need someone to offer perspective. To hold us when we’re broken. To dance with us through victories. To remind us that we are already brave — braver and stronger than we often give ourselves credit for.

That’s why my 2016 running calendar is dedicated to raising money for the women of Carolyn’s House — a residential facility which helps homeless women find their way back to self-sufficiency.

Want to join my team? Here are two ways:

  1. Buy a “be brave” bracelet from Bravelets.com — $10 of each purchase on the Carolyn’s House page goes directly to the program.
  2. Donate directly to my fundraising campaign “Homeless to Hope” at YouCaring.


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