Most Valuable Players (MVPs) are often named as a result of their performance or body of work created on the field, but some of the most meaningful MVP performances come from the people in the shadows, the people that are overlooked everyday or those who are hiding in plain sight.
When you see one of these MVPs listed below, say “Hello!” Flash a smile. Send a thank you note. Remember a birthday. Ask them about their hobbies. Find common ground. Have a meaningful conversation. Give them a compliment. Shake a hand. Love your neighbor. Let them know that they’re part of the team, too.
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Here’s eight MVP performances to look for:
Academic Advisors and Educators
Educators, professors, and academic advisors know that hard work continues in the classroom. Sometimes they’re outside the lecture hall doors just in case athletes need some extra encouragement to get to class. Some will go above and beyond to ensure their students’ educational success. To the educators and PE teachers who care deeply about the lives of their students, graft players into their families and take them into their homes, we salute you.
Other than the athletes themselves, athletic trainers are the most ready to enter the field of play at a moment’s notice. They are often running to the rescue and nursing players back to health. They are the walking first-aid kits dressed in khakis and polos, the overseers of hydration stations, certified healing hands, stretching buddy. They often see us at our most vulnerable, experiencing our physical brokenness and rehab breakthroughs in real-time alongside us. They play a significant role in how athletes experience their recovery.
Compliance officers make sure the path is clear for players to use their athletic abilities. The last thing any player, coach, or athletic director would want is to have NCAA eligibility issues keep an athlete from practice or a game. Not many student athletes may know their names, but the officers are working on their behalf.
They clean the halls, tidy up locker rooms, scrub floors, and put out fires. They’ve got some of the best stories and random fun facts. After all, they do have the keys to all the doors in the building! Engage with the custodial staff and make a new friend as their cleaning cart passes by.
Equipment and Field Operations Specialists
Shoutout to the folks who help players represent their teams in style! Equipment specialists make sure athletes have all they need to succeed, providing new threads, (who doesn't like getting new gear, amirite?) replacing worn out socks and shoes, and often do the thankless job of washing sweat-soaked uniforms that could probably singe some nose hairs. They may not be celebrated much, but they’re definitely impact players.
Groundskeepers and the folks who maintain facilities deserve some love, too. From tending to the field and making an art out of cutting the grass to making sure the lights work and running after stray animals (and streakers!), they don’t mind breaking a sweat or getting their hands dirty. Their names may be unknown, but their contributions are of great significance.
Friends and Family
The people who have been providing support systems from Day 1 deserve more than just a handclap. They’ve seen the highs and lows, the celebrations, and frustrations. They are motivators who know how to challenge us and won’t hesitate to give us a generous slice of humble pie along with a side of accountability when we need it. They pray for us, see us, allow us to be ourselves, and want the best for us. They’re in it for the long haul and will make the sacrifices necessary to see their loved ones thrive. Tell them how they’ve impacted your life.
Strength and Conditioning Staff
Strength and conditioning staff members have one of few jobs where screaming and shouting at work is acceptable. They know that the work you do in the gym is a critical performance indicator and make it their mission to draw out your strength every day. These are the men and women who want to see you sweat, who are pushing athletes to be better, and helping them feel empowered in their bodies. When you need a spotter while you’re pumping iron, they’ll be happy to assist. Re-rack your weights to show your appreciation for them.
Team managers do it all from making itineraries, setting up hotel accommodations, scheduling flights, taking head counts, and supplying snacks for the whole team. I’d call these folks the swiss army knives of athletics. Their jobs may look different everyday and they’re always up to the task.
Who are the MVPs in your life?