Hulne: Learning the meaning of sacrifice

Published 5:42 pm Thursday, July 27, 2023

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There is a word that is synonymous with athletics that doesn’t get thrown out often enough. We always hear about teamwork, the grind, and the winning mentality.

But being successful in sports ultimately comes down to one word. 


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What are you willing to give up to get to the next level as a team or player?

Everybody wants to be the star on the team at some point, but the reality is that some players have to take a back seat.

To get a view on the subject, I posted a twitter poll asking my followers if they’d rather play 75% of the time and win 25 percent of the time or play 25% of the time and win 75% of the time. Of the 88 respondents, 39.8% said they’d rather play more and win less and 60.2% said they would settle for playing less and winning more.

While every athlete would obviously choose to play a lot on a winning team, the idea of sacrificing your playing time to be part of a historic team is a commendable idea. I also reached out to some former athletes to see what their thoughts on the issue were.

Josh McRae, a teacher in Austin who now coaches youth basketball, said that his perspective has changed as he’s grown in life.

If you would have asked me this when I was in youth sports I would have said I want to play 75% of the time,” McRae said. “Looking back on it as an adult has changed my perspective, though. Being a bench player on a very successful team that lost in the state championship game was an amazing experience.”

Pacelli grad Abby Bollingberg has seen both sides of this conundrum. She was a role player on a state championship basketball team for Lyle-Pacelli in 2018 and she played a bigger role on a team that wasn’t quite as successful the following year. She also played a lot of innings for a softball team that struggled and she played a lot of sets for a volleyball team that was average throughout her time with the Athletics.

Bollingberg sacrificed many of her weekends to get in the gym and get better and she sacrificed aspects of her game to fit into the lineup for the basketball team.

I sacrificed a lot of time to help my team win and become a better player. With little playing time, I think you sacrifice being looked at as a whole player,” Bollingberg said. “You’re either a shooter, a driver, a defensive player or someone to guard their big. You come in to play a role and you’re mainly looked at as that.“

As she looks back on her playing days, Bollingberg said she remembers her practices the most. Her intention was always to be the best and she was driven to help L-P win its first state title as a co-op.

“At the time, I would say that my ultimate goal was to win. With a successful program already established, there were older players that I knew would help us win more,” Bollingberg said. “Yet, there’s a realness of wanting to win and thinking you could help your team do that and still not getting to play. Being able to actually play is great, and looking back now I think I gained more influential experiences from being on the court.”

Bollingberg’s words ring true for any athlete who has ever felt that they are not getting their fair shot, which is why minutes matter so much. However many minutes are allotted, it is up to the individual to make it count the most and hope the coach can see the value they provide.

Players on the bench should want to play and if they are competitive, it is perfectly acceptable that they aren’t happy not playing. But they should also recognize that in most cases they are sacrificing for the betterment of the entire team and realize that they can still provide support from the bench and competition during practice.

I was a bench warmer on a .500 basketball team during my senior year and, while I wanted to play more in the worst way, I knew that the players ahead of me on the roster were more talented and more athletic than I was. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I made the best of it. It didn’t stop me from spending massive amounts of time in my family’s driveway putting up jump shots and working on my left hand as I always had hopes of rising to the next level.

Eventually, I learned the meaning of the word sacrifice, which was to give up something I really wanted for a greater cause, and I think we could all learn that lesson in sports and in life. In a culture that is becoming more and more focused on the individual instead of togetherness, we must remember that we’re far better off giving up a few of our wants to fulfill the needs of many.