Contemplating caring

I spoke to Niya Butts, the new Arizona coach, a couple weeks ago for a story. She mentioned in passing that when a player’s been hurt during a game this season, that she’s had to take a moment to reassure the rest of the team that their teammate will be OK. If she didn’t, Butts said, the team would be distracted in their worrying. I noticed something similar in last night’s Tennessee-Georgia game.

Lady Vol Shekinna Stricklen made a bucket, but then crumpled to the floor under the basket. She was eventually helped off the court and took a seat on the bench. When Coach Pat Summitt, who was mic’d up last night, got back to the huddle to address her team, she said: “She’s gonna be allright, OK?” She paused and briefly panned all five faces, then launched into her game-specific instructions.

Last April, Kansas Jayhawk Rodrick Stewart fell to the floor and broke his kneecap during a playoff game. Afterwards, one of his teammates described how down the entire team felt about the injury. But did Coach Bill Self go back to the huddle after Stewart was carried off court and tell his other players not to worry about it?

Wednesday I went to see my favorite high school girl’s team play, and when I got there, the JV game was in its last five minutes. In the final 60 seconds it got close, and favorite team’s JV was fighting for the win. All the varsity girls were on their feet cheering on their juniors like it was the national championship. Do high school boys teams do this for their JV teams?

These are some of the questions I’d like answered.

Six years ago I based my Master’s thesis on a study using the Women’s National Basketball League of Australia. Among other things, I found that a high percentage of players were strongly effected by the moods and feelings of their teammates – more so than their coaches. I’ve looked online and can’t find any similar studies (if anyone knows any, please point them out).

I think that I, or someone else, needs to do a very specific study toward this end, which would include a survey of men’s teams for comparison. I’d like to know if females worry more about their teammates than men, as it appears, or if it’s even. I honestly don’t know. Women are supposed to be the nurturing sex, but how many men worry just as much but keep it to themselves?

Other perspectives on this are most welcome.