I get it; making friends is hard. When you bond with a group of guys or girls, it’s great to see that chemistry build over time. However, what I see over and over again is that players continue to choose friends over opportunities. Let’s discuss a better alternative.
First: Don’t Beat Yourself Up, It’s Human Nature
In the book, Influence: The Psychological Power of Persuasion, we’re shown that most people aren’t interested in doing the legwork required to determine which course of action, product, or other consideration is the best for them. Rather, the majority chooses to go with the popular choice.
So, in selling people things, it’s often easier to just show people that other people are buying it, rather than explain the virtues of why a person should buy it. Honestly, this is a little sad when you do, in fact, have a superior product to offer.
Yet, only a small minority take the time to consider their options and the merit of the choice made by the masses. But, I want you to do exactly this: think about why.
Takeaway: You’re probably choosing lots of things in life because your friends do. If it’s good enough for them, then it must be good enough for you. Right? Well….maybe not. Don’t assume that the new team your two buddies want to play on would be the right team for you.
You’ll Make New Friends. GREAT Friends. I Promise.
Every year for 6 seasons, on the first day of spring training, I found myself in a clubhouse full of new players. Even when I returned to the same team in back-to-back seasons, so many guys were traded were released or retired that it was still 67% new players, who I didn’t know.
It’s scary at first, and people are quiet at first as they gain comfort. But, I always found that my new team had nearly all the same personalities as before, and I had the same experiences playing baseball every season.
Looking back, there are one or two guys from nearly every season I played that became lifelong, good friends. If I had tried to stay put, on one team, I never would have branched out and met them. What happened was that I had friends in clubhouses all over the league, and my network of friends simply expanded.
Takeaway: You made friends on your current team, right? You’ll make great new friends on your new one.
I’ll tell you a story about our own academy’s teams, the Warbird Senators.
Last year, after tryouts, I called a young man who I wanted to play for us. He declined my offer, telling me that he really just wanted to play with one of his best friends for one more year, but that he’d likely try out next year. I understood and wished him luck. However, two things happened:
- He got split up from his friend, anyway. His organization had two teams at his level and they got separated.
- We took a few players who ended up exceeding our expectations, and earned our loyalty because they did take the plunge and switch to us.
So now, the likelihood that this young man now makes our team next year is now very, very slim; really, the door is probably closed for a couple of reasons:
- We are loyal to the players that chose us. They have the benefit of the doubt in all aspects.
- A team should only upgrade (cut one player to take a new one) when the new player is vastly better. It’s unlikely that he’ll meet that criteria next year, after we worked with the guys who replaced him and saw them improve so much.
He really had one shot, turned it down, and will be a very long shot to make our roster again. Sports are like this, and coaches stick with the players they have as long as they’re doing their job. Some times, there may only be one spot open on a team, and if you get the chance to take it, you have to leave your old buddies behind.
Sometimes You Have to Get In Early
As any team grows and starts winning more games, the bar for being on that team gets higher. You might try out for a team that you could make today, but couldn’t make two years from now (if you traveled forward into the future). Top-notch talent from farther distances start to hear about you, and they come calling. Often, for players that aren’t at the very end of the skill bell-curve, getting in early is the best thing to do, as it gives access to the better coaching, practice, and competition that drives a team successful, winning team.
I’ve seen players in pro baseball who wouldn’t make a team in spring training, when everyone looks good on paper. But, as guys get hurt or play poorly, lesser-quality players get chances to fill-in or replace them. When these guys perform well, they stick. It happens everywhere – you see it in the Big Leagues, too – guys get cut in MLB spring training to a big-name player, then get called up a few months later and do well. This sounds like the opposite of getting in early, but it’s not – it’s getting in when the bar is lower (when a team desperately needs a replacement).
Think Hard About Long-Term Goals
Is your current team meeting all of your expectations? Are they putting you in a place to succeed, to thrive and get better? Are you on track to meet your long-term goals?
If not, you need to shove your friends aside, and first think about your career. Imagine that you would have your ideal friendships at any team you played on, you’d have 100% as much fun, so your choice would boil down to only the experience given by the coaching staff and organization. What would you choose?
These decisions are hard. Sometimes, even outside of sports we have to choose new friends or distance ourselves from old ones, in order to grow. People hold us back and if they’re not pushing us to be better than we are, then they’re often holding us back. Be uplifted, not grounded by your circle of friends.
No One Chooses Colleges This Way, Right?
No one chooses their college based on where their friends are going, right? This is because we all have different academic needs, talents, etc. – there’s a laundry list of reasons why the college for you won’t be the college for your best friend.
And, at that time, kids are okay with the uncertainty because they see their future ahead of them.
Well, why is this different than choosing a sports team at 13 or 16 years old? If one team offers a much better longterm outcome (your future!), why not take it? It’s just a myopic decision to stick with buddies who may not have the same aspirations as you. If you want to play Division-1 volleyball, for example, why stay on a team where most of them aren’t chasing a similar goal? Will they practice as hard as you? No. Will they threaten your playing time with their ability, pushing you to work harder to earn it? No.
Jumping Ship All The Time Isn’t Great, Either
Choosing a new team shouldn’t be a yearly process either – with “Daddy ball” more prevalent than ever, kids who don’t get the playing time they want also seem to jump to (or form) a new team every year. This isn’t what we want, either. But, if a good opportunity comes a long where a new organization seems like a better longterm fit, and can provide an experience congruent with a player’s long-term goals, then moving there may be the right choice.
Summary: What’s Right For You?
Sports are meant to be fun, and the relationships you form with teammates is the BIGGEST part of the memories you’ll make. But, one also can’t let the relationships steer the ship. New relationships can easily be forged, and we’re often surprised at how exciting new friendships can be. We just have to make sure we’re choosing a sports team that meets our long-term needs first, and has a roster of pals that we like, second.