12/20/10 — Monday column -- Rudy

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Monday column -- Rudy

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 20, 2010 1:47 PM

Penn State's march to its fourth consecutive NCAA Division I women's volleyball championship epitomized teamwork this season.

Four All-Americans graduated from the program over the past two seasons. Those key losses left many coaches thinking the door could be open for a new national champion in 2010.

Three freshmen felt otherwise.

The trio stepped onto the court and the Nittany Lions immediately experienced the adversity many critics thought they'd face. Instead of wallowing in self pity, each individual player held herself accountable and responsible for her actions during practice and in matches.

Penn State didn't have the power of previous teams, but hounded opponents with a scrappy defense that played a pivotal roll during their unprecedented run. See, they understood the value of individuals working together toward a team goal.

The Nittany Lions rediscovered their swagger before reaching the pivotal point of their Big 10 season. The team earned quality wins and drew a top four seed for the NCAA tournament.

Doubters continued to question Penn State's ability to contend for a fourth national title. Late Saturday evening, those critics were silent and the Nittany Lions seized a fitting reward for their teamwork -- a 3-0 sweep over California in the championship match.

Too bad, coach Russ Rose can't bottle up the team's work ethic and sell it. I'm pretty sure a few coaches around here would gladly buy it in bulk.

We're exactly one month and four days into the winter sports season, and I've yet to see a good team step onto either the basketball court or take the wrestling mat. Sure, there have been some quality individual performances, but considerable inconsistent team results.


Together Everyone Achieves More.

It's a cliche that's been used in every locker room and has adorned way too many T-shirts that have probably been turned into furniture dusting rags by now. Somehow, the message from that simple, profound saying seems to get missed.

All the intangibles that should fuel a player's soul when they step onto the court or wrestling mat just hasn't been there this season. I've yet to see teammates clap and cheer for each other, give each other a pat on the back or even offer words of encouragement.

Instead, they want to know how many points, rebounds, steals and assists they have at the end of the night. Or, they've gotten mad and found something to punch after losing a wrestling match because they didn't focus and prepare in practice.

That selfishness needs to go.

Each player must accept their individual accountability for mistakes and lack of focus, either in practice or a game. Each player must shoulder the responsibility to improve mentally and physically. Each player should make an effort to help younger teammates grow and learn.

That constitutes a team.

Just ask Penn State.