Team sports are nothing if not built on emotion.
This truth is self-evident in every level of competition, from childhood through high school, college, professional, and even in the Olympics.
Because of this fact, every great team throughout athletic history — and even many mediocre ones — has a player or two who are especially adept at getting their team hyped up for the game ahead.
I call these players, “catalysts.”
Some catalysts double as the obvious team leader, such as Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. These often have terrific results.
Others have styled themselves as leaders, but their game play is nowhere near as significant as their self-attributed hype, such as Ray Lewis of the 2012 AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens.
Still others act the catalysts of their respective teams with simple, superb play.
Examples of this latter group are FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, game-changers who can turn the tide of a game in their team’s favor simply by being themselves.
No matter what, these players spark some kind of kinetic explosion on the field, ice, or court, sort of like an area buff (for you non-incendiary RPG fans) for their entire team.
There is one type of catalyst that I have yet to mention, and it is my favorite: those that most often appear in the sport of basketball.
These guys have been called “chemists” by pop culture/sports commentator Bill Simmons for their ability to create and uphold team chemistry, but I prefer to think of them as catalysts for excellence on the court.
You know the ones I’m talking about — the guys, usually on the bench, who fire up their team by jumping up for awesome plays and with much back-slapping and words of encouragement during timeouts.
It’s just too bad that very few of these players, if any at all, exist here in the Imperial Valley.
I’ve seen Central’s boys and Southwest’s girls accomplish this to some degree this season.
Imperial High’s Dajon Staton, while a starter, is a tremendous catalyst, whether it be with an ear-to-ear grin or occasional comedy.
But why not take a player or two who have enough athletic ability and dedication to make the team but not enough to be a starter or reliable backup and coach them to be a catalyst?
I remember playing basketball for Imperial during my freshman and sophomore years. I loved the sport, but was never talented enough to start, except against teams like Julian.
I had some of that “catalyst” ability, pumping up my buddy Chris Naylor or encouraging Matt Jones to be more aggressive in the paint.
And watch out when us backups — Justin Wingate, Robbie Renn, Vincent Sandoval, and I — hit the court, because we had chemistry and could take it to a group of starters.
But how much more effective had I been taught to be the guy who also greets the players as they come in for a timeout, and how much more effective would local teams be if they did the same?
Coaches: get to it! Find that guy or gal who has a bit of natural charisma and teach them to help you in pumping up the team.
It’s a great way to get more students involved in the game.
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