Good evening everyone. I thought I'd dedicate the blog to asking that question. It's pretty interesting, because of all the answers you may get. If you think about it, how many times do you hear the term "team player?"-you might see it in an advertisement for a job, as in "team players wanted." Or when you're watching a televised sports event, the commentators talk about this guy just "isn't a team player."
This past Saturday, I had the chance to get together with my NSA teammates. I was in South Jersey (Burlington County, Philadelphia suburbs) and I was helping out one of my teammates who is undertaking a very deep, and personal project. She wants to write a book about her experiences as a person who stutters. I am always available and willing to help devote my energies for the betterment of a team goal that helps everyone. That's what being a team player is all about. Anyone can stand up and say, "Well sure! It means showing it's not about 'me,' but rather "we." But do you really understand the essence of that statement?
I want to tell you the story of one Scott Niedermayer. I've always been a big hockey fan, and I consider myself a student of the game. Sure, I like watching the bang-bang plays, but watching strategy and the chemistry take place. While some people may spend their Saturday nights at the lounge spending some quality time with a chocolate martini, I hung out at NHL arenas. I follow the New Jersey Devils, and I'm partial to the Washington Capitals. The Devils drafted Scott Niedermayer with the third overall selection in the 1991 NHL Draft, recognizing the need to build the blueline. Niedermayer was considered a devastatingly promising prospect-smooth skater, strong offensively, almost to the point where he could have played on offense in addition to defense. When the Devils hired Jacques Lemaire to coach the team, he made sure that every player would commit to putting their personal goals aside for the purpose of team. That meant no offensive fireworks for Niedermayer...no freedom to roam the ice, no chances to put up 80+ points as an offensive-minded defenseman.
Now Niedermayer did complain, and some of that criticism did make the sports pages. But he decided to sacrifice for the New Jersey Devils. And what ever came of that decision? How about three Stanley Cup Championships. Some athletes spend their whole careers waiting to play for the title. Others for whatever circumstance, never get the chance to do so. Now ask yourself: if you were in that position that Scott was, would you rather have ten seasons of 80+ points...or three rings? I'll take the rings, and probably so would everyone else.
My NSA teammates know that it takes a commitment to sacrifice our personal goals for the betterment of the NSA. We come from diverse backgrounds, big cities, small towns. Some of us have different ideologies about politics, religion, and philosophy. I know that if I have an issue about my stuttering, I've got 652 teammates on my side. I know that they know I will rally behind them. I stand with them. Together, we're all captains....and we're all team players. A team player means having the power to declare your freedom from stuttering. It means unselfishness. Because of the NSA, I am a team player...and I'm on the BEST team around.
My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.