Individual awards in team sports is always an interesting topic because most of us talk about team, team, team. In the movie “Hoosiers,” the great coach Norman Dale makes that point very clear, “No one player is more important than another. Team, Team, Team!” And we all know he wasn’t the only coach to preach a similar message.
We need to honor the best players, right? If a player does something special they should be recognized, right? Or do we?
In my book, there are two different types of individual awards:
1. Awards that are given at the national, state, league or regional level. All-State or All-American or All-Region are awards that usually are determined by a committee of interested people who are assigned the job of selecting the best players. Stats, record, team accomplishment and many other factors are weighed and players are recognized.
2. Team level awards that are chosen from the players within a team. Awards like Most Valuable Player, Most Valuable Pitcher, Coaches’ Award or Best Defensive Player might be some of the accomplishments that are recognized. The criteria for selecting these recipients is up to each team, and most likely, each coach.
So let’s take a look at the team-level awards because these are the ones that I feel deserve the most attention. I think these awards are the ones that have the most potential for creating problems.
Someone might snipe a little bit about a player being recognized as an All American not deserving it but it isn’t nearly as personal as the criticism that comes at the micro level. The exception, of course, comes when the team’s coach chooses to nominate or not nominate a player for one of these high level awards.
Team level awards are ripe for controversy and problems. Why, you ask?
1. Who makes the decision? Coaches beware!
2. Who did the stats?
3. Who was “Clutch”? And what the heck does that mean?
4. Who performs well, works the hardest, does the extra things in practice (out of the public eye) versus who performs well on game day?
5. Whose family is more involved with fund raising, field work, booster club, etc?
6. Politics! Politics! Politics!
All of the above factors create potential problems within any program, at any level. How you ask? Easy:
1. The kids already know who the best players are, creating another way of separating out the stars just creates more issues.
2. When a coach chooses to recognize a player for an award that the other players know isn’t deserving, it casts doubt on the coach and their credibility.
3. Almost any of these awards are subjective at their core,which always leads to questions that often cannot be answered.
4. Parents are often much more motivated to see their kids recognized than the player themselves.
5. Most players do not want to be singled out from their teammates! No matter how good they are!!
The bottom line:
Fastpitch is a team game. Let’s keep it that way. Coaches are only setting themselves up for headaches and internal team problems by awarding individual honors. There are plenty of important things for coaches to be concerned with, why set yourself upon for more problems?
Take the I out of TEAM!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.