Jordan Patterson’s Story
Jordan Patterson had paid her dues. In fact, during her first two years of playing softball for the University of Alabama, she sat the bench behind two great catchers. And during those two years, she worked hard, had a great attitude, and cheered for her team. After winning the National Championship her sophomore year, they graduated two catchers, so during that off-season, she believed her time had come!
But her world would be rocked that summer when Head Coach Patrick Murphy brought in a junior transfer who just happened to be a very talented catcher. Not only that, but the coach appointed Jordan with the responsibility of welcoming this transfer to the “family.”
While Jordan continued to work her ever-living butt off, she quickly realized that their new transfer, Molly Fitchner, was incredibly talented, a great teammate, and worked just as hard as she did. She understood that she would get an opportunity to be a starter, but she also knew in her heart that she was probably going to be experiencing games much as she had in her first two years — from the dugout.
Jordan’s story at this stage is not uncommon in athletics at any level — A new player joins the team and is a threat to the roles of the existing players. But what happens next is unique and special.
Instead of “transferring,” — which the majority of players in professional, collegiate, and even high school sports do these days — she continued to work harder than ever. And she still she managed to balance working hard, competing for the spot, and accepting her role as a reserve.
She started to lead from the dugout and became fully invested in the success of the team.
She understood that she played a vital role to that success, even if she wasn’t in the games.
Was it easy for her?
She cared so much about softball; she was a competitor, and it’s unnatural for a competitor to sit and watch! We play sports to play, not to sit pitch after pitch, inning after inning, game after game.
Now, her story could have been different. Molly could have gotten hurt and Jordan could have stepped up and led the team to glory! The Hollywood finish! Right? Just think of Nick Foles in the 2017 Super Bowl.
But that is not what happened.
What happened is, she sat in that dugout for the next two years.
Was it all a waste? Those four years?
In Jordan’s eyes, absolutely not. While it took her some time to fully appreciate what the experience taught her, she came to understand that as unfair, frustrating, and hard as those moments were for her, they were a part of life. The experience further developed her work ethic, resilience, and mental toughness, preparing her for law school and life as a corporate lawyer.
So, what does Jordan’s story teach us?
Why is her story different than the stories of so many other athletes?
Well, I had the opportunity to talk with Jordan on my podcast recently and I came to three key conclusions.
First, Jordan is an exceptional person! Kind, motivated, hardworking, and self-aware, she was able to — and will continue to — overcome adversity, because she is mentally tough.
Secondly, Jordan’s parents showed empathy by listening to her and continuing to support her and the team. They never bad-mouthed the coach or her teammates, and they never told her it was unfair.
Lastly, Jordan’s coach, Patrick Murphy, created a culture that was bigger than the sport — one that valued every player as a person. While I love talking to great coaches, it was incredible to hear a very articulate perspective from one of the players.
3 Reasons You Need to Care More For Your Reserves
1. You want to win.
Even if you only care about winning, you know you need to have reserves that show up at practice every day to push your starters and your key minute players. Practice in nearly every sport is most beneficial with more players than the number of players you need to play a game. Also, the reserves are often younger players whom we need to continue to develop, so we want them to keep working hard and improving. And then there are the times you’ll need those reserves ready for when a starter or a big minute player goes down with an injury or suffers from a drop in performance. The bottom line is that on most teams, to be successful and continue to improve, we need players who are willing to come in, work hard, and compete in practice, even though they are not getting important minutes.
2. Our team culture depends upon the “reserve” players.
Just take it from Anson Dorrance, the most successful Division 1 college coach of all time. Dorrance said, “I thought it really came down to luck if the team chemistry was good or bad. Now, I believe it really boils down to the attitude of the reserve players and how the starters view and treat the reserves. That determines whether or not you have a genuine team.”
Just look at your bench. Observe the level of communication and the body language of those who are not in the game and I think you will have a pretty good sense of your team’s culture. Are they all about “me” or all about “we”? If the players at the end of the bench are standing up, cheering, and positive, then you know they love their teammates on the field.
3. We coach because care about every person on the team.
Most people in coaching are in it to have a transformational impact on the people we are leading. And we are in just as much of a position to positively or negatively influence the lives of our “reserves” as we are to influence the lives of our starters or big minute players. Just look at the story of Jordan Patterson. Her life was forever transformed by her experience and she has the greatest respect for her coach. As coaches, we can have that type of impact if we love ALL the people we coach.
Click here read Jordan Patterson’s blog. It is a great story to share with athletes and sports parents.
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