When it comes to sports, or just about any type of competition, the driving force behind an individual or team’s success is ultimately its will to win.
Teams strive to be best. They strive to sit alone atop the leaderboard. Sure, pure talent can go a long way, but it’s a team’s desire and passion to excel that determines where it will end up.
But what happens if you’ve already been deemed one of the nation’s elite well before the season has even begun?
The Braden River High basketball team was named one of the top teams in the state this season before losing a heartbreaker to Port St. Lucie in the regional quarterfinals. This past fall, the Lakewood Ranch High football team nearly upset the No. 2 team in the nation, proving that anyone can be the best on any given day.
Lakewood tennis player Ashley Bongart is ranked 27th in the state of Florida’s U18 rankings, but she never would have known if someone hadn’t told her.
“I don’t really look at them,” Bongart said. “I know what I am, but I’m not wrapped up in it.”
Last season, the Braden River High softball team finished the season ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 6 in the nation, according to MaxPreps, after falling in the Class 4A state semifinals. They were among the nation’s best; but if given the opportunity all over again, I bet the Lady Pirates would be more than happy to give up their state and national rankings for another shot at a state championship.
MaxPreps hasn’t released its softball rankings yet. But with an 8-1 record so far this season, it won’t be long before the Lady Pirates are once again being touted as one of the nation’s elite.
Earlier this week, The Out-of-Door Academy baseball team was ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 3A, according to MaxPreps, and with a perfect 7-0 record to start the season.
But now, the question becomes just how much will that ranking really mean if the team doesn’t fulfill its ultimate goal of winning district and state championships? If I had to guess, I would say most teams would give it nothing more than an afterthought.