from the stands: complacency corrupts top athletes

Johnny Carroll, Sports Editor

In today’s world, few things are guaranteed. Off the top of my head, I can think of three. Death, taxes and change.

With such few guarantees in life, it makes it even more frustrating when gifted athletes take their position on a given team for granted.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back James Connor has one of the most inspiring stories in sports history. Following a dominant three years at the University of Pittsburgh, Conner suffered a torn MCL in his knee. In December 2015, after getting MRIs for the injury, doctors found Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in Conner’s chest.

Forget returning to the football field. Conner was focused on survival. After 12 brutal sessions of chemotherapy and immense support from surrounding communities, athletes and teammates, Conner was diagnosed cancer-free, and the return to the field began.

Conner was on track to become an National Football League draft pick but with the combination of the MCL tear and cancer, Conner had to return to Pittsburgh for his senior year. However, his demonstration of perseverance and strength was second to none. During his days between six months of chemo, where was Conner? On the football field or in the weight room.
“So as soon as I got back from my first treatment, I went right into our facility on the South Side, and I got on the treadmill. I didn’t have time to waste. And I wasn’t about to feel sorry for myself.” Conner said.

That drive that Conner had to get better while going through something so gruesome is what separates great athletes from mediocre athletes.
Conner understood that nothing that he had previously done in his career would help him in the next season. Nothing about James Conner’s career was guaranteed at this point in time.

Even after he was cancer-free, little was guaranteed. He had to work as hard as the next man to be the starting running back for University of Pittsburgh. Although Conner did not miss any games for Pitt, he still had a lot to prove. He embraced that challenge, ultimately becoming a third-round draft pick in 2017 and earning the starting position in 2018.

In today’s sports world, too many potential star athletes take their position for granted. Take Anthony Bennett for example. He was a stud forward from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was drafted first overall in 2014 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. After playing four years in the National Basketball Association for four different teams and averaging four points per game, he is no longer in the league. Complacency kills athletes’ potential.

And it is very possible that Anthony Bennett worked consistently and diligently, but was just not capable of being a star player. But it is also possible that Bennett was outworked by players that had to earn a spot on the team because he assumed he was good enough.

The problem among gifted athletes is the complacency. And it’s not every athlete. The reality is that there are likely more driven athletes than not. However, there are athletes that peak early because they become spoiled, entitled and content with their position. They figure that because they’ve always been the best player on their team, they don’t have to try as hard in practice or in games. They’re so used to everything being handed to them, that when they must work super hard for something, they struggle.

Here at Dulaney, there are over 1300 student athletes. Every season, a handful of kids, unfortunately, get cut. And some of those kids work incredibly hard to train for the season, to ultimately not make the team. Those kids would do anything to be fortunate enough to be a part of a sport at such a well-respected and dominant school.

So, don’t take a spot in the starting line-up or a spot on a team for granted. Work harder than the next man and push one another to be great. Don’t be content with being the best player on the team. Work to be the best player in the county. Don’t fall victim to being complacent with mediocrity. With such an attitude, greatness is attainable.