A Star is Born

managing star athletes within the team

Brad Gilbert - bgilbert@civitasmedia.com

I’ve dubbed this generation the “Look at me” generation. It seems everyone wants to be a star. With selfie addictions at epidemic status and the public majority celebrating celebrity to the point of mindlessly following every notification in real time, recognizing true star power can be daunting.

Anytime you have an industry creating billions of dollars in revenue, it’s guaranteed that a star has been thrust out front of the rest of us in order to market to the masses.

Any industry you look at would work. The formula is the same whether you are promoting football or fashion. This article will stay within the realm of sports.

The term “prima dona” gets thrown around the sports world sometimes. When it does, it usually lands with a negative connotation. Every team has its “prima dona” to some extent.

It refers to the star, the frontman, the face of the franchise, the one always in the highlights, the one they always interview or talk about. He/she is the lightening rod for the attention. Every group/company/team needs a “prima Dona”, a star if you will.

Every team needs a star just like every star needs a team. That is simple enough. Convincing both the star and the team that each needs the other is near impossible.

Usually, the media, has a major influence over who becomes a star, how we treat the stars and how stars fall out of favor. I am full aware that “media” is my title. I am also aware of the influence of the words I choose. I can help make a star and/or I can help tear one down.

To prove the media’s influence on our perception of star athletes, one look at the life of Jordan Spieth would suffice. Who?

Jordan Spieth and most likely you pronounced his name wrong. It’s pronounced “Speeth.” All he has done is win the this PGA season’s first two majors, The Masters and The U.S. Open as well as two other wins. He is at St. Andrews in Scotland trying to win the British Open. He is 21, humble, well mannered, well dressed and smart. He is everything a star should be, especially for the PGA.

However, I doubt many of us would recognize him if he stood next to us at the bank. You know why. Spieth is everything a good role model for America’s youth should be. He handles the attention with class and humility

Those are two attributes not often possessed by stars. At least not the ones thrust to the front by the media. Instead of Spieth being the talk of the sporting world, the lead story of golf is still Tiger.

Love him or hate him, Tiger is the star of golf and was the global face of male athletes. Tiger was lavished with adulation and money, power and fame and rightfully so. If you dominate the sport you are in, you should get the spoils.

Handling those spoils is the kicker. Having a star on a team and maintaining both identities is a tough situation to manage. However, it’s necessary to keep both. The fact is not every player can be a star. Despite how grandparents or aunts and uncles feel about it, some people are meant to be role players and supporting staff for the good of the team.

One of my favorite talks with Western baseball coach, Kurt Russell was the time he explained to me that in his experience an equal mix of “prima donas” and “blue collar” guys make up the best team dynamic. He went on to explain to me that better still was if there was an equal mix, that it is best to have them side by side on the field. Russell said that the “blue collar”, hard worker, grind it out kind of player gets to work right next to the prima dona and perhaps gains a better, more efficient way to handle a certain play. Also, the prima dona gets to play right next to a guy who has to work his tail off for everything he gets and most likely some of that work ethic rubs off on the prima dona.

I can hear some of you now, thinking it would be best just to have a team full of prima dona stars. Having a team of only stars is a poison in the locker room. As bright as the lights are, some egos think they have to be shined on brighter than other egos and the other egos can’t handle anyone else blocking their spotlight.

It’s sports jealousy. It effects players, coaches, parents, friends and families. We see it all the time. I saw it just this last basketball season in 5A Altus and Class B Big Pasture.

The Bulldogs had a kid that could score. He could get to the rim as quick as anyone I have seen in high school in a while. It was obvious who the scorer was on the team. He could create open shots when he wanted to and he could draw fouls and get to the line as often as he wanted. It’s easy to see a team’s identity if you follow sports at all. Halfway through the season, the team looked different. This player no longer created shots for himself and others. In fact, he turned down open shots with no other way to see it than intentionally passing the ball when he should have shot. I recognized it immediately. After I asked a person with knowledge of the situation about it, I was told, “apparently someone is under the opinion that he shoots too much and is a ball hog and they said something. So, now he won’t shoot.”

Big Pasture had a basketballer that could flatout play. He scored as often as he wanted to from anywhere on the floor. Well, for 3 quarters anyway. I saw Big Pasture vs. Tipton in the finals of the Tipton Tournament. Tipton had won 19 straight at that point and eventually made the state tournament. Big Pasture took a lead into the 4th quarter and that was when ugly jealousy showed up. All of a sudden, his teammates quit looking for him. Now, he couldn’t get the pass thrown to him if he stood open right next to his teammates.

Everyone in that gym could see it. The Big Pasture star’s shoulders began to slump and the wind was taking right out of his sails. He was on fire that night and instead of continuing to “dance with the one who brought you,” as my father used to say and give him the ball, his teammates decided he had scored enough and garnered enough attention that they shut him out and kept themselves from having a chance to win.

The team needs a star. It needs someone it can look to when the game is on the line and a near miracle is needed to pull out the win. Remember the final scene of Hoosiers? Coach Gene Hackman devises a plan for their star, Jimmy Chitwood, to be a decoy on the final possession and another player would take the shot. The huddle, although not going to defy their leader, looks dejected and beat already. Hackman realizes the change of mood and demands an answer for the downturn in emotion. Chitwood looks at him and like a true star who wants the ball when the pressure is highest, says simply, ” I’ll make it.” Hackman knows he can’t argue with that and changes his play to give Jimmy the ball and everyone else get out of the way.

Stars and those in charge of handling them whether it be the coaches, the teammates or media, all have a responsibility to each other. The stars should be grateful and acknowledge their success is due in large part to their teammates and coaches who have put in the same work and often more work so they can succeed. Teammates and coaches should also be understanding of their roles in creating opportunities for the star to shine and all involved should handle triumph as well as defeat with humility and class.

The Bulldogs have a star. You will hear his name often. He has the physical attributes that next level scouts are after. He also possesses the mind capable of handling next level responsibilities. I have actually heard it said albeit only once that Taven Birdow’s return might cause too much attention toward him and take away from the team brotherhood that Coach Reed has instilled here. The fear was, “It can’t all be about him.”

Of course, it can’t all be about one player. This team is good with or without Taven. This Bulldog team can be special and most of us see that. However, some of the attention has to go to Taven. Not giving our star his due attention is doing him and this community a disservice. Like it or not, the youngsters will see Taven and the rest of the Bulldog squad with a sense of awe especially if the wins come at a pace we think they can. This is a good thing for everyone involved in the program. It helps attendance, fundraisers, program support and community involvement.

Also, in order to be noticed by the scouts, the Bulldogs will need media and social media help. I am going to write about Taven. I am going to write about the other players as well.

It is the information age. It’s the look at me generation. The great thing for us is Taven and the rest of his senior class are handling things with humility and class.

They are stars.

managing star athletes within the team

Brad Gilbert


Reach Brad Gilbert @482-1221 ext.2076

or bgilbert@civitasmedia.com

Reach Brad Gilbert @482-1221 ext.2076

or bgilbert@civitasmedia.com

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