As I go into the NCAA tournament, I have had time to reflect on my career here at Duke and what I’ve done for my teammates and the program. You will rarely find me on the stat sheet, considering I have one goal and one assist over my entire Duke career. I’ve never received any player of the week type of awards, and I’ve never even been interviewed after a game.
If I could be a genie, wave my wand and redo my entire career to be the leading scorer each of my four seasons, I wouldn’t. Why? Here are some lessons I have learned while riding the pine -- things I don’t believe I would have learned if I had been a superstar.
I was told recently your legacy is based on how you influence others, and that excellence isn’t an event. Through being on the Duke soccer team, I have learned how to connect with people. I embraced my role on the team and focused on how to make my teammates better.
I learned personalities, strengths and weaknesses. I can tell when people need to be motivated or cheered for, and I made that my job. I want to win and I help the team win because I know what the individuals on my team need in order to perform at their best.
At a program like Duke, we recruit extremely talented freshmen, but they come in hesitant and nervous. It is my job to help them settle down and give them confidence so they can be excellent.
For example, Cassie Pecht, currently a sophomore, is someone I feel as if I influenced the most her freshman year. She is a girl with unbelievable speed and skill with the ball, however, I could tell she was intimidated by the college game.
During games I would see her start to fade and shy out of the spotlight -- not play poorly, but not be the spark I knew she could be. Any second I could, I would pull her aside and say, “Cassie, it’s simple. Just take the ball and dribble it into the back of the net.” It’s about taking the complexity and pressure out of what Cassie was feeling and giving her a chance to settle down, laugh and simplify everything that was going on around her.
This season, Cassie was there to support me. Out for the season with an injury, Cassie has always been the first to approach me before I go into a game and tell me, “Avery, dribble the entire team.” She was telling me, “Play with confidence because I believe in you and I support you.” It is moments like that that I know I have made a difference.
If I were an all-star on the team, I don’t know if I would have forced myself to find a different way to make an impact. The feeling I get when I know my teammates have learned from me, been inspired by me and respect me is way better than any feeling I could have gotten from scoring a hundred goals.
Shout out to the others out there playing left bench because if you make the effort, you can mean more to your team than you think you do.