West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

. . . on the "Me" in Team

We have often heard the expression -- "There is no 'I' in team." Well, there is an "m" and "e" in team, and that spells "me." Leave it to Bill Welker to add a different twist to an old accepted adage. So let us now look again at the flip side of the "we are team" coin.

I do believe there is a "me" in team dynamics. To begin with, when individuals first commit themselves to any athletic contest, they do so for the "me" purpose of making a name for themselves in that sport. Is that wrong? No.

We all have an ego that says "achieve!" Anyone who says differently is just unwilling to face the realities of human behavior. Consider the following.

Many of my readers have participated in sports. This means they were involved in many, many practice sessions, competing against their peers for the varsity slots on the squad.

I remember this aspect of athletics vividly from my days on the mats. In high school, I had a friend, Rusty Bender, who had to compete against three other wrestlers for the same weight class. Rusty and his teammates all coveted that weight class. Ironically, because of the "me" factor, they made each other much better grapplers in their quest for the position.

That, my friends, is the "me" in sports. Whether it is a spot on the football, basketball, baseball, golf, or wrestling teams, athletes first think of their own fortunes. From there, the team mindset then becomes foremost in superior athletes' thoughts. To further demonstrate this point, let's return to Rusty Bender's story.

Rusty prevailed in wrestle-offs and gained the spot on the varsity squad for which he worked so long and hard. But was it all in vain? Our legendary coach, Mal Paul (PA and National Wrestling Hall of Famer), asked Rusty to compete at a higher weight class -- for the good of the team.

Rusty complied with the Coach Paul's request and helped the squad immensely. In fact, Rusty wrestled at this heavier weight in almost half of his matches that season. But it wasn't without cost. His only lose and draw in dual meets was at this higher weight class.

At the end of the season, Coach Paul suggested that Rusty compete at the heavier weight class in the four-week state elimination process. This is when Rusty took a stand. He respectfully said, "No, coach." In his heart and mind, Rusty believed he could be victorious -- on a statewide basis -- at the lower weight classification.

Our very perceptive mentor said, "Okay, Rusty." The rest was Pennsylvania wrestling history, for Rusty Bender became the school's tenth state champion that year.

So, yes, there is a "me" as well as "we" in team. You may totally disagree with this personal conjecture. But those, who sincerely understand the psyche of dedicated athletes in all sports, know that I speak the truth.

"In our play we reveal what kind of people we are."

-- Ovid

Return to the West Virginia Mat Thoughts Index Page
Return to the WV-Mat front page