They come out each week and carry a lot of weight in our minds. After all, when the time comes, rankings decide opponents in playoff situations. We strive all season to raise our ranking, hoping to crack the top numbers to be in a good position when the brackets are announced.
With all of our effort to the have the perfect record to land in a higher spot, that spot can be lost just as easily when we underestimate lower or unranked teams.
The truth is anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Just because a team does not have the best record or is constantly beat by upward of five goals each game does not mean that your team is guaranteed to win. If it worked like that, there would be no point in playing these games at all.
The issue with rankings is the sense of entitlement they bring. Rankings are based off a record and difficulty of opponents, however they do not take into consideration other variables. Sure, someone ranked No. 5 may beat a No. 2 seed, but was that team truly deserving of the No. 2 spot? Instead of thinking the top seeds cannot be beat simply because of the standings, the mindset should be that the top seeds are just another team on the schedule. They are beatable when you bring a game fueled by heart and hard work.
While the rankings are not always indicative of a team’s ability, coming in at the No. 1 spot validates all of your hard work over the course of the season. However, your hard work is not done yet.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” as quoted by Tim Notke, a high school basketball coach.
Notke is completely right. Talent, or those ranked at the top of the charts, cannot rest on its status. Talented teams must also put in the hard work required to stay at the top. It takes discipline to continue to diligently sharpen skills.
March Madness is a great example of the underdog coming out on top. Countless upsets occur during the tournament each year that cannot be predicted beforehand. A host of variables can impact the outcome and leave the No. 1 team wondering what happened. Injuries, sicknesses, bad calls and a good game from the underdog are potential roadblocks on the way to a championship. This goes to show that though a team is slated to win the whole tournament, a team cannot rest on the rank they are given.
With my experience in sports, I have seen the impact of sitting at No. 1 for weeks in a row. As we met unranked opponents, they gave us better games than some of the ranked ones. These teams left us with a reminder that each and every opponent is going to bring its best, and we have to do the same. It’s a humbling experience to go to overtime against a team with nothing to lose.
When rankings come out, take them with a grain of salt. Each day brings about new opportunities or challenges. The only thing you can count on is the preparation and time put in at practice.