Great catchers are great teammates. If you want to be a truly great catcher then you must also be a great teammate. There are no exceptions. 

One universal characteristic of great teammates is that they are always 100% bought into the team above all else. Whatever the team needs is what great teammates are willing to do. 

And that brings us to #20 in our How to Be a Great Teammate Series: Sacrifice. 

 

#20: SACRIFICE

[You] must be willing to give some of yourself for the greater good of the team. You have to be willing to sacrifice what you want for what the team needs. You have to decide to move from selfishness to selflessness. We live in a world where everyone wants to be great, but the truth is, only through service and sacrifice will anyone become great. This means you may have to play a different position than you are used to. You might dive for a loose ball in basketball or execute a sacrifice bunt in baseball. Perhaps instead of scoring, you can set a pick to help your teammate score. It means that sometimes you are the star and sometimes you help the star (Gordon, Jon (2015-04-24). The Hard Hat: 21 Ways to Be a Great Teammate (pp. 71-72). Wiley. Kindle Edition). 

For some people, the word sacrifice has negative connotations. It does not and should not be that way. However, the fact remains that sacrifice is not something that appeals to many people. Why is that? What does sacrifice actually supposed to look like?

Perhaps sacrifice gets a negative reputation because there is a a lack of understanding of what sacrifice truly means. So, what does sacrifice actually mean in the context of sport?

 

SELF-LESS

For starters, sacrifice means being selfless. Selfless is the opposite of being selfish, but it does not meant that you are devaluing yourself. It’s the exact opposite. Selfless is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. There is a HUGE difference there. 

 

BEST FOR THE TEAM = BEST FOR ME

Another reason that sacrifice might have a negative connotation is because people might think that sacrificing yourself for the team means that your individual goals and accomplishments don’t matter. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that if you want to flourish individually then you must realize that individuals always need a team around them to maximize their potential. No individual goals are ever accomplished on an island. Everyone relies on others to make their individual accomplishments possible. 

More than that, what’s best for the team is always what’s best for you as an individual. It might not feel that way because we all have egos and it can be hard to put others first. Admitting that putting the interests of the team in front of your own does not make you a bad person – it makes you human. We are hard-wired to look out for our own “survival” first. That’s a natural instinct. The people who accomplish true greatness, though, also realize that they have to keep their ego in perspective. Putting the team first does not mean that you’ll accomplish less – it actually means that you’ll accomplish more. What is best for the team is always what is best for the individual. Together Everyone Accomplishes More = TEAM.

 

WE > ME WINS THE DAY, EVERY DAY

John Calipari is a polarizing figure in today’s sports landscape. Calipari is the head coach of the Kentucky men’s basketball team, and he is best known by many for how he embraces the “one and done” rule in college basketball. Calipari routinely brings in the best high school basketball players in the country and only coaches them in college for one year before they go to the NBA. 

Regardless of your opinion of Calipari (if you have one), one thing is without question: he is able to bring in extremely talented individuals and more often than not he teaches them to be a part of a team. Kentucky TEAMS win a ton of basketball games every year, and many (perhaps most) Kentucky INDIVIDUALS see their dreams of playing in the NBA come true. Calipari has a saying that goes like this: 

“Everyone has to eat at the table”

An individual might be capable of going out and scoring 40 points every night and dominating the SportsCenter highlight reel. But, if every individual was only focused 100% on their personal stat line then the team would suffer. Kentucky would get 100% out of one player, but perhaps 25-30% out of the rest of the team. And, their team wouldn’t win very many games despite the immense talent up and down the roster. 

The same principle applies to catchers in baseball. For example, you might be able to throw out a runner if you get a fastball, but what if a fastball isn’t the best pitch to get the hitter out? The odds are always greater that you can get a hitter out than throw a runner out. The best pitchers get 70-90% of the hitters they face out, and the best catchers throw out 50% of baserunners at the younger levels, and more like 30-40% in the MLB. So, what pitch are you going to call in that situation? Are you going to do what’s best for the team or what’s best for you? 

Everyone has to eat at the table for your team to succeed. And when everyone gets to eat, everyone wins. Including yourself. 

 

SACRIFICE

Sacrifice is not a negative thing. It’s actually the calling card of anyone who is truly great. 

The best catchers are always the best teammates. No exceptions. 

And, the best teammates are always willing to sacrifice and do anything they can to help the team succeed. 

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