Every year, athletic departments all over the United States try to come up with a catchy t-shirt slogan that will appear on the backs of their student-athletes. The goal is to inspire enthusiasm and some positive words to live by for the upcoming season.
We have all seen them. There are many different types of slogan categories:
You have the derivative: “There’s No I in Team” and the more haughty, “My blood, my sweat, your tears.”
And of course, there is the “OG” of slogan t-shirts: “No Pain, No Gain.”
There are some I like better than others. For example, I’m not a big fan of the misguided, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” – which might be more suited for professionals than high schoolers.
If you have been at Wardlaw+Hartridge for a while, you probably have a few black t-shirts in your laundry with slogans on the back like, “Stop Saying Tomorrow” and “Champions are Made When No One is Watching.” I just found one deep in my closet that says, “Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard.” All of them are appropriate sayings and positive messages for young athletes.
There is one slogan that I have always felt fits the Wardlaw+Hartridge athletic experience more than others: “Respect All, Fear None” is my favorite.
At first, I thought it sounded just as corny and cliché as the rest.
However, diving deeper into what “Respecting All” really means and how it relates to “Fearing No One” and how both relate to high school athletics is what attracted me to this particular saying.
My years of coaching experience have taught me that winning easy teaches far less than battling to a hard loss. I believe our athletes probably know this already, but one cannot blame them for losing sight of the message and loving that easy win.
Middle and Upper Schoolers get caught up in the moment very easily. As coaches, we have an opportunity to use our sport to help students respect the process and understand the lessons learned from competitive athletics. We have to be aware that these types of wins can give us a false sense of who we are competitively and lead to some bad habits.
Respecting all simply means respecting all situations. I strongly believe that educating our student-athletes on the diverse elements of respect and self-awareness helps prepare them for many of life’s challenges that wait ahead. Respecting teammates, referees, coaches, and opponents is the foundation of this respect.
Understanding respect is empowering. Superior athletes that understand and respect the insecurities a teammate might have during competition become stronger leaders. A great leader makes teammates feel more confident and less fearful of difficult challenges.
This is where the “Fearing None” part of the slogan comes into play. We are challenging our coaches to teach our student-athletes to compete through a combination of respect and fearlessness. Our teams have to be fearless.
As a smaller school that competes against mostly larger schools, we do surprisingly well with many of our sports teams. Wardlaw+Hartridge teams do not have tryouts like bigger schools, but when you are led by coaches and captains that genuinely care about you and respect you, it can encourage you to give everything you have with the hand that you’re dealt … that’s being fearless!
So far this fall, we have seen some impressive examples of our teams “Respecting All” and “Fearing None.”
On Monday, our girls’ varsity volleyball team advanced in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament for the first time ever by beating South Plainfield in a thrilling comeback win. Our boys’ soccer team continues to overachieve with impressive results and going deep into tournaments. Girls’ tennis is a consistent winner every year despite playing two divisions higher than our school size. Our cross country teams routinely defeat larger schools and compete with some of the best in the state. Last month, our girls’ varsity soccer team showed no fear by beating Old Bridge, a high school with over 2,000 girls, compared to our number of 82 Upper School girls.
- AD Romeo