When I played Pop Warner football as a kid, our league had a rule - every player on the team had to play at least five downs. I remember when I was around 13 years old on the Hillsborough Dukes as the starting quarterback, linebacker and special teams player, that there were four other kids on our team that did not get to play much. I always felt bad that there were some of us that got to play the whole game and these guys only got to play five plays. Our coach would put them in on the defensive line for those five downs and get them to basically jam up the line of scrimmage. I can't remember if they did a good job or not when they went in, but I do know that they were psyched to get their chance out there!

I also recall my experience of playing hockey in high school. I had never really even skated until that first practice my freshman year. I was HORRIBLE! I was like a tripod on the ice! But, I decided that even if I never played a second my entire high school career, that I was going to be the hardest worker on the team. I rode the pine almost every game in high school. But, I slowly improved as a skater and by my senior year got to play a couple shifts per game. I was a total goon out there as I was a football player on skates, just trying to crush who ever had touched the puck last! But, in the first round of the playoffs during my senior year, I scored a hat trick! It is seriously the accomplishment of my athletic career that I am most proud of because of how hard I worked. I remember my coach saying he thought there must be pigs flying outside the rink because I was getting interviewed by the local papers for hockey instead of lacrosse!

I digress (from tooting my own horn) but everyone wants to start or play a lot for their team.
Everyone! Who really wants to sit on the bench? Nobody. So, it is no surprise when you see players who are upset in competitive athletics because they are not playing much or at all for their squad. It's a harsh fact of life in athletics. Does that mean we just give up and don't work harder to get better? Absolutely not! We work harder and harder each and every day until our coach notices us and decides to give us a chance in a game. And when we get that chance, we make it count from all the hard work we have put in. But, what if that is never going to happen? What if the coach is a total idiot and never sees how great we are? We do it anyway. We do it simply to be our best. Maybe even more importantly, we do it to help make our team better in practice.

Just last night, I had to explain to our DU team, that every player is just as important as the next. The only way that we will have great success as a team is if all the backup players push the starters in practice. They all have to be willing to work hard each and every day for the good of the team, even if that means they never see the field personally. When you win as a team and come together as a family, the feeling of accomplishment is the same for everyone. It is an experience that everyone gets to share together, no matter how many goals they scored, saves they made or minutes they played.

The essence of this lesson is that we do our best for others, even if that means we get no personal reward in the process. We live in a world with a harsh reality as well. I think to a certain extent, we would all like to be millionaires, but not everyone is. We would all like to look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie (or like it if our significant other looked like them!), but we don't. We would all like to have the intelligence of Albert Einstein to solve the worlds' ills, but some of us (myself included) are complete knuckleheads!

None of those surface level attributes really hold any value though, if we just learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are. If we do the best with what we were born with and try to cultivate our strengths and talents to bring our own unique gifts into the world, we will find tremendous success. When we try to be our best each and every day no matter who notices or what rewards we get from it, we will feel fulfilled. When we do things for others, without looking for anything back in return, the gifts that we receive back our limitless and almost impossible to comprehend.

So, if you're a backup…keep working hard and trying your best everyday to make yourself better and to make your team better. No matter what happens, it will pay off in the end. I promise.