I had a couple of conversations this past week which reminded me of a short essay my brother wrote while in high school. My brother was never the most gifted athlete but there are few that would ever out work him. Here is what he had to say about being a role player:
The crowd erupts as a basketball rips through the nylon cord, yet the fans do not cheer for me. I reside toward the end of the bench, read and gray warm-ups clinging to my chest, concealing a jersey many will never see. My game is not played on the Friday and Saturday nights of varsity basketball action. My playing time is achieved Monday through Thursday in practice. Through intensity and hustle, I strive to build my teammates into winners, realizing I may not step upon the hardwood floor with them that weekend. Perhaps there is no greater sacrifice and contribution to a team than to be a role player.
-Dr. Jason Knight
The first conversation was with a young man that plays on my school’s football team. While he is not always the one that gets the ball, he gives great effort on every play and does his job well. No matter what he is asked to do, he goes hard, and puts his teammates in the right position to win. He does this quietly, but he does it right everytime. I told him how much I love to watch a player that is willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team each week. Although he may have not always been seen in the highlight reel; his teammates were, many times, because of the small things this young man did on every play. This is what the team needed him to do to win, so this is the role he took on with pride. He not only played that role, he played it very well.
The second conversation was with a colleague who has her administrative license and was considering applying for an open position in our township. She was struggling to decide if it was the right time to leave the classroom and take the chance on a different role within a school, and within the community. She knows ultimately that administration is where she wants to go, but was not sure if she is ready to leave the classroom and her kids. As she talked, I could hear her passion and the joy she gets from working with kids each day. She was fearful to lose this joy. She was fearful to lose the positive daily interaction with students. She was fearful that she would not love her next role as much as she loves the one she is in right now. As we talked, I explained to her that she was correct about many of the things that scared her about leaving the classroom. As a building leader, you do not get as much interaction with kids, you do not always get those wonderful thank you notes from students and parents that make your day, and you do not get invited to recognition dinners for making a significant impact on a student’s life. That is no longer your role. But, as a building leader, you get the opportunity to make those things happen for others. You get to work with teachers and students to mend relationships and improve classroom success. You get to inspire others to take risks and achieve things they never thought they could. Your impact on the lives of students is not as direct, but it can be just as significant. This is the role you choose to take.
s a leader you don’t always get to take the game winning shot. Most of the time, like a role player, true leadership is about doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and never worrying about who gets the credit for the work. The only thing that matters is growing and improving- and that only happens if each of us are willing to play our role to make sure everyone around us wins. The success of the team is what matters!
What is your role? No matter the answer to that question, do it to the best of your ability. And, if you don’t like your role, change it! If you cannot change it right now, then fulfill your role to the best of your ability. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time from Steve Prefontaine — “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Don’t sacrifice your gifts, every job is important, even if some are not as glamourous as others – be a role player!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!