Calling the Shots: The importance of teamwork

Seth Barshay, Sports Editor

Countless clichés have been drummed into all of us since we were little kids about being a good teammate.  “You win as a team, you lose as an individual.” “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”  Clichés, yes, but recent events in the professional sports world have shown how true these statements are.

In the NBA Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs had players from five different countries on the court: Tim Duncan from the Virgin Islands, Tony Parker from Spain, Manu Ginobili from Argentina, Tiago Splitter from Brazil, and Danny Green of the United States.  I found it amazing that despite language and cultural barriers, the Spurs played so well together as a team.

The Spurs won their best of seven series against the Memphis Grizzlies, sweeping them.  They have reached their fifth NBA Finals appearance in the past fourteen seasons.  Despite being in one of the NBA’s smallest markets, the team continues to be a perennial contender.

They have no superstars on the team, just solid veterans like Parker and Ginobili, and a first ballot NBA hall-of-famer in Duncan, who is well beyond his prime.  Yet they dominated a team that many had predicted would come out of the Western Conference and challenge the Miami Heat for basketball supremacy.

How have the Spurs managed to be so successful?  The answer seems to be teamwork.  The Spurs’ game plan is based on unselfish basketball.  Ginobili has thrived in his role as a bench player, a position many former all stars would find demeaning.  Additionally, the Spurs have some of the best ball movement in the NBA, allowing them to find the open shot, taking what the defense gives them.

With players like Duncan and Ginobili willing to accept lesser roles for the good of the team as a whole, Greg Popovich, currently the NBA’s longest tenured head coach, has been able to mesh the team into a cohesive unit that finishes at or near the to0p of the Western Conference almost every year.

Unfortunately, not all players in sports exemplify the team-first attitude of the Spurs.  You may have noticed a few months ago that Tim Tebow was cut by the New York Jets football team.  This happened only a year after he lead the Denver Broncos to an upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2012 playoffs.

Despite his past success, Tebow’s year with the Jets was hardly favorable.  By most accounts, the Jets’ coaches were amazed at his inability to play the quarterback position.  When it came time for someone to replace Mark Sanchez, it was not Tebow, but third-string quarterback Greg McElroy, who got the call.  It was later revealed that Tebow was so upset about not receiving the start that he told the Jets coaches that he would not serve in any other role during the game, including switching positions.

Other college quarterbacks who could not handle the NFL-style offense have converted to different positions in the NFL, including former Jets wide receiver Brad Smith.  Also, University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was recently drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars as a wide receiver.

Many believe that Tebow can play in the NFL, just not as a quarterback.  Given his size and athletic prowess, playing tight end is believed to be Tebow’s best shot.

The Tebow drama that surrounded the Jets contributed to their mid-season collapse.  Tebow stands in stark contrast to Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Company.  The former University of Florida star clung to his past successes and was unwilling to be a team player.

Tebow has not yet been signed by an NFL team.  This is in part due to his tremendous following arising from his stellar college career and strongly held religious beliefs.  Professional football teams are concerned that bringing him in would create a quarterback controversy.  Additionally, teams are concerned that they will not have a backup quarterback who is able to throw the ball in an NFL-style offense.

Tebow’s strong desire and will to play quarterback in the NFL are still admired by many players and league officials.  He may beat the odds and fulfill this dream.  Realistically, however, he is unlikely to get another shot, and even if he does, it would in all likelihood be as a backup quarterback.  Alternatively, he can make a commitment to playing the position that will best serve his team, which in the eyes of many is the better decision.

No different from Ginobili coming off the bench or Duncan giving up his primary spot in the offense, Tebow should have to learn the lesson that there’s no ‘I’ in team.

In Schreiber sports, the same principles apply.

“Learning to work and cooperate with others toward a common goal in sports is the lifeline of a successful team,” said Athletic Director Ms. Stephanie Joannon. “Teamwork in sports offer a way for people to compete for something together and with a common goal.  It builds character and friendships and develops important life skills.  Teamwork has the opportunity to give players a greater respect for one another, gives them better communication skills, and formulates friendships that could last a lifetime.”