What Will Your Teammates Remember About You 10 Years From Now?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~ Maya Angelou


When I was a young athlete, I was not a good teammate. I know I was a good kid; I was kind and respectful, I worked hard, and I was inclusive, but when I stepped onto the court or field, the only thing I cared about was winning. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that; I wish more kids had a never-say-die attitude on the court. My problem was that my extreme competitive nature manifested itself as being very aggressive and sometimes hurtful in my on-court interactions with my teammates.

I had good intentions; my objective was always to inspire my teammates to perform and to encourage them to believe in themselves. Being so young, though, and having never been guided in the proper way to do these things, my words probably had the opposite effect. As I matured, and was exposed to different ways of thinking, I learned how to get the most out of my teammates without getting in their faces and leaving them feeling sad.

The first time I read the quote at the beginning of this post was an “Aha” moment. It perfectly articulated what I had known for a long time, but had never said out loud. I immediately thought of my teammates from my club days, and I decided at that moment that it would be a sort of mantra for me. I love it because I think it applies to absolutely everyone, no matter how old you are, what your job is, or how good you are at what you do.

I like examining this principle from an athletic point of view. You may be the most talented, impressive athlete on your team or in your entire age division, but if you are always putting yourself above the best interests of the team, or if you constantly make fun of the weaker players in the group, no one will care how good you are. The only thing your teammates will remember about you down the road is that you made them feel like they didn’t matter. Why? Because people don’t remember who scored the most points, or who got the most awards, or who had the most scholarship offers. People remember how you made them feel.

As I mentioned earlier, this life lesson applies to absolutely everyone. Coaches: you might be a great technical coach, and have a gift for developing athletes. You may have won national championships, but if you constantly alienate your athletes during practice, or treat the bench players like they are invisible, or put your own reputation at the forefront, that’s all you will be remembered for. Parents: you might bring the best snacks, be the loudest cheerleader, and drive your kids all over the planet. If you are always saying nasty things about the player playing in front of your kid or questioning the coach’s decisions to the other parents, though, they will only remember you making them feel uncomfortable and being a poor “teammate.”

Today, I still call out teammates for controllable errors (attitude, effort, communication) and repeated miscues. It’s part of being a leader, and my competitiveness will never go away. It’s who I am. Now, though, with my mantra in mind, I communicate in a way that raises my teammates up, instead of bringing them down. I address the whole group, and if I do talk to one person, I do it in a way that shows them that I believe in them, instead of leaving them feeling insecure. I work extremely hard to be the best volleyball player I can be; it’s important that I work extremely hard to be the best teammate I can be too.

I’m not saying that we should never say negative things, or that we have to be positive all the time. That’s not the case at all. I’m saying that there is a right way and a wrong way to communicate the negative things and push teammates to be better. For example, I recently played with a very young setter who lacked confidence setting behind (I am an opposite), and who was intimidated by me, being a much older player and a foreigner. After a few rough games where she had trouble setting everybody, she asked me to meet with her. She told me that the reason she was avoiding setting me, and why she was struggling to set during games, was because I made her scared. My instinct was to tell her that it was her job to put her hitters in a position to score no matter what, and that it wasn’t my fault she was struggling setting her teammates. Instead, I apologized for making her feel that way, and said that I would be more mindful of my words and actions so that she would feel more comfortable. I told her that I would always try my best, no matter what type of ball she gave me, and that everyone struggles with confidence sometimes. After that conversation, her setting and confidence during games started getting better, which helped everyone on our team perform better.

Above all else, people remember how you make them feel. I encourage you to keep that in mind as you live your life. You will be amazed at how slight alterations to your actions, words, or attitudes affect the people around you for the better. When all is said and done, I want the people I interact with to have good memories of our time together, no matter how long or short it may be. I want them to remember me making them feel like they matter, and it’s never too late to start thinking that way.

xo, Sarah



  • Michelle Rabideau February 27, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    This was a great read!
    Fantastic message to put out there! It really can relate to everyone and anyone.

    Thanks so much for sharing

    • Sarah Pavan February 28, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      • Brigid Radigan March 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm

        Great message Sarah! Your dad and your sister ran our All American Camp last year (your dad has come for the past several years) and we love them so much that they are coming again in June! I am going to post your article on our team page.

        • Sarah Pavan March 4, 2017 at 8:54 am

          Thank you so much, and thanks for sharing! I know my dad and sister love doing the All-American Camps. I’m so glad you will see them again!

      • Kevin Thibodeau March 3, 2017 at 7:39 am

        Always enjoyed watching you play (even though I am a die hard Longhorn fan). I miss the TX /NE matches. This was a Great read – thanks for sharing it! All the best in your professional career!

        • Sarah Pavan March 4, 2017 at 8:55 am

          Texas?! Booooo!! Haha I’m just kidding. Thank you so much for your message 🙂

  • Túlio Romualdo Magalhães February 28, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    I am an brazilian ammateur athlete and I’m only 19. All though almost ever I was the youngest player in my team, I always was able to comunicate to everyone in the right way, and I think that it’s a gift. As a setter, my confidence and my way to talk to everyone are so important to the team, and, for me, it’s a pleasure when I put someone’s mood up, throught my words. I don’t want to make this message sonds like “look how good I am”, but I believe that everybody have inside itself good and bad things, and to be a good player we have to find out what we make better and put it on the court, being always a good teamate to play with.
    You, Sarah, has been a pro athete that inspired me since I saw you in the SUPERLIGA, playing for Rio de Janeiro. Thank you!

    • Sarah Pavan February 28, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Túlio! You are so right…. everyone has the ability to be a good teammate. We just have to understand our strengths and believe that we all have something to share with the group. It makes me so happy to read that you are able to get the most out of your teammates. Keep being awesome!

  • Linda Hendry February 28, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Maya Angelou shared great wisdom with us. You are taking her message to the world of athletics. Bravo for being such a wise leader.

    • Sarah Pavan March 1, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      Thank you Mme Hendry. She had so many wonderful quotes and valuable insights. This one in particular has always spoken to me.

  • eta February 28, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you for writing this, Sarah. My oldest son, who is 11, plays volleyball for K-W Predators and I gave him your article to read, as an example of what it means to be a good teammate. He enjoyed it and I think he learned a thing or two from it 🙂

    • Sarah Pavan March 1, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      I’m glad to hear that he enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing it with him!

  • Marisa Mota February 28, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    I love this blog. I have managed to relate to every one of your posts in some way or another, and I think many people can benefit from the information you are providing us with.

    In your intro post, you mentioned possibly sharing your everyday routine. I think that would be awesome. Given that you have gone from beach to indoor without much of a break is amazing that your body is still in one piece. I know I’m super interested in knowing how much time and energy you put into just taking care of your body on a daily basis.

    • Sarah Pavan March 1, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Thank you, Marisa! It makes me so glad that you have been able to relate to the posts. That has been my goal…. hopefully there is always someone who can understand what I’m talking about, and realize that they are not alone. I will definitely do a post on my daily routine once I get back into my regular schedule xoxo

  • Kelly Smith March 1, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Great article Sarah!

    • Sarah Pavan March 1, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Thank you!!

  • Scott Marita March 1, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I wanted to say thank you for writing this! Your experience as an athlete is something that younger athletes, parents and coaches can learn from! I enjoyed reading the blog entry. I have forwarded on to our club volleyball coaching staff! It is great to always ask ourselves as coaches, “how can we make an impact?” that goes beyond the “x’s” and “o’s,” wins and losses of coaching.

    Have you ever considered or been asked to become a “guest speaker’ before? We have a club program is Southeast Wisconsin, always looking for a way to educate and motivate our athletes and coaches!

    • Sarah Pavan March 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad you found some value in the post, and felt that it was share-worthy 🙂 I actually love doing public/guest speaking. I did it all the time in college, and these days I take the opportunities when they work with my travel schedule, but I haven’t been able to do as much as I would like to. I am definitely open to doing more of it!

  • Malina Terrell March 2, 2017 at 6:21 am

    Sarah this is such an important topic when it comes to playing a team sport, but also in every aspect of life. Thank you so much for your wise words, this is also coming from a professional volleyball player still early in her career. Respect ✊🏾 ❤🙌🏾☺

    • Sarah Pavan March 2, 2017 at 8:42 am

      Thank you so much, Malina. Where are you currently playing? How are you enjoying it so far??

      • Malina Terrell March 2, 2017 at 9:07 am

        I am in Finland right now, it has been quite the journey 🙂 This is my first season playing as an opposite, definitely a new role for me, I have literally played across the whole net now haha….But I see you are from Canada, I am possibly going there this summer to train with Reid Hall. But on another note, just reading this tells me a little bit about your character and I already have so much respect. You’re the type of woman I would want to come speak to my kids one day, when I am running my own camp/clubs back in my hometown.

        • Sarah Pavan March 4, 2017 at 8:53 am

          Thank you so much for your kind words. When you get your club off the ground, give me a call. I would love to come do some speaking for you. Where are you from?

          Good luck with the rest of your season!

          • Malina Terrell March 16, 2017 at 7:15 am

            Awesome! I’ll for sure be reaching out 🙂 Thanks for you interest in being involved. I’m from northern California, not far from San Francisco.

            but THANKS! we are just starting playoffs!

  • Bob Mann March 3, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    I had the honour of coaching Sarah on an indoor Ontario Regional team for a short period of time, when she was 14 or 15. Everything she has said about herself is completely true. I have never worked with a more intense, focused athlete. She set an example by working hard and never asked more of her teammates than she did of herself. Even with her international successes, and no longer 14 or 15 years old, she still has time to say hello and give me a hug whenever we meet, usually in a gym in her home town. As a coach, I try and pass on all of Sarah’s positive skills the the young girls I work with today. They just have to do it from 5’8″ instead of 6’4″.

  • Kevin OReilly March 7, 2017 at 12:12 am

    Very heartfelt and inspirational.
    Thank you for sharing Sarah.


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