To start, an anecdote from Jack McCallum's book :07 Seconds or Less. When journeyman Ledell Eackles played for the Miami Heat, his contribution to one particularly memorable team meeting was walking up to the whiteboard and writing, "No your roll." Teammate Glen Rice's reply: "Sit down, dumbass."
Ok, I mostly included that because I think that the story is funny, but it also relates to this post.
At the halfway point of the season, our intramural team is 4 and 1. The first game seemed a bad omen: we played very poorly and lost to a team we should have beaten. The second game resulted in a win, but not an encouraging one. We played a team that was significantly worse than us and barely survived. I think that our main issue was getting adapted to one another. None of us is really used to playing with so many capable teammates, so we were all deferring too much, especially to our star forward (who was also deferring). We also lacked defensive intensity because we were still getting used to the refs and were not sure what their fouling tolerance was going to be.
But the last three games—all victories—have been great. Our defensive intensity is way up and guys have really been looking for their shots. The ball movement has been excellent. Our big men have dunked on many fools. One game we shot about 60 percent from three and rang up the highest score that the league has seen this year (80).
The biggest issue that I have had to deal with personally is learning to be more of a role player. When I play pickup at the gym, I'm generally the 2nd or 3rd shooting option and the main ballhandler/distributor. That means that I have the ball in my hands a lot and feel like I can take a substantial number of shots during these games. But our intramural team is so good that I've had to accept a lesser role. I come off the bench, don't get to handle the ball as much, and take far fewer shots than I'm used to. The real difficulty for me is negotiating the tension between deferring to better shooters and retaining enough aggression to still be effective on the floor.
When I was younger, this situation might have been more bruising to my ego, but I'm actually happy to be a second banana on this team because my teammates are so skilled and it's clear that I should not be one of the primary scorers. The culture of our team softens the blow as well. Everybody is really supportive of one another and that makes it easier to accept reduced responsibility. When I initially put the team together, I prioritized inviting high-character players because I knew that getting along was much more important than assembling transcendent talent. As I watch our opponents snipe at each other after losses, I know that this decision has payed off.
I'm still struggling to no my exact roll, but I'm confident that I can make peace with this. We're getting better with each game, and the more we embrace our proper places on the team, the better we will ultimately become. Tougher opponents await us.