Today, as we know, offensive highlights consume the vast majority of social media accounts, sports channels, and literature platforms. Everyday, we are shown or told of towering walk off homeruns, fearless go-ahead three pointers, and flashy dangles past the goaltender. We are so accustomed to seeing, hearing, and reading about these unforgettable offensive highlights, that we lose sight of the other, equally, if not more important aspect of the game: Defense.
During high school, I had the privilege of holding an important defensive position on the varsity soccer team. My senior year, we won game after game, receiving, as a team, much traction in local newspapers. But despite consistently holding opponents to a shutout, or just one goal, myself, as well as my fellow defenders were never acknowledged. Instead, it was always the goal scorers, or the assist givers who received the praise in the media. While ecstatic for my offensively-geared teammates, I’ll admit this ate at me a bit.
As my team continued to win in the playoffs, articles and video segments only intensified. Again, it was always our offensive players who were getting recognition.
It was not until our end of the year banquet in which we celebrated our first state championship in 14 years, that I was able to wrap my head around this. At the time, the Patriots had recently knocked off the Seahawks in dramatic fashion to win Super Bowl XLIX. Riding that epic win, my assistant coach ended the banquet by thoughtfully comparing each senior on my team to a member of the Patriots. I remember I was one of the last to go, and that all my teammates that had already gone had been compared to offensive stars such as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman… Finally, it was my turn, and I remember my coach said something like this:
“I am comparing Scott to cornerback Darelle Revis… Like Revis, Scott’s name was not publicized much in papers, videos, or game reports. However, this silence is the furthest thing from a knock. In fact, it goes to show just how effective Scott was in containing the opponent’s offensive weapons. Just like Russell Wilson, the Seahawk’s quarterback, who only targeted Revis’s matchup once in the Super Bowl, opponents did not dare attack Scott’s side of the field. Scott’s presence was so effective that he almost became invisible. So while Scott has not received as much public fame as our goal scorers, or our assist leaders, his role on this championship team was just as instrumental as anybody’s.”
It was at this moment that I realized that by making the decision to play a defensively-minded position, I might have inadvertently reduced the public recognition I would receive, but that I only enhanced the value I would have in the team’s success. To me, this was even more satisfying than any headline, image, or article.
But not every defensively-minded athlete will have this moment of realization—and that can prove both difficult and disruptive. It can be hard to understand why you are not receiving public recognition for preventing goals, homeruns, or baskets, (aka doing your job) yet your teammates are receiving continuous recognition for scoring goals or getting assists (aka doing their job). And it can be especially hard when it seems that only when you make an error, or allow someone by you, are you publicly recognized, yet when an offensive player misses a scoring opportunity, they are not. Not only can this hurt individual play, but also it can affect team chemistry.
I write this piece to first inform defensive athletes, as well as their respective parents, that they are not alone in their, at times, frustration, for their lack of public recognition.
But I also want to share my story so that these same defensive athletes can better understand that by making the decision to be a defensive stud, you may be limiting the attention you receive from a public lens, but you are only expanding not only the respect you will get from teammates and coaches, but also the role you will play in your team’s ultimate success.
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