In all aspects of sport there are players that stand out for the right and wrong reasons. There will be the players who get a lucky break that can kick-start their success. There will also be players that never get the opportunity to be reach their potential and be as successful as they could be. That applies to all aspects of life whether it be work, school or sport. However, the question I would like to pose is this: Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?
I don’t think many people in the world of rugby would deny that the Italian No. 8, Sergio Parisse, has been an exceptional player for his country over the past decade. He has certainly been one of the best players in that position for many years, yet how many trophies has he won with the national team? How can you measure his talent/quality compared to the likes of Richie McCaw of the All Blacks who has trophies to burn? Parisse is certainly a proud Italian and you could argue that it comes down to national pride and he will happily represent his country win/lose or draw and walk off with his head held high. He also has club rugby which gives him an opportunity to win trophies and a lucrative contract. However, isn’t it a bit sad that a player with so much talent realistically won’t win a major trophy with his country due to circumstances outside of his control. This is only one example of many big fish swimming small ponds across world sport. Look at your own sport and I can guarantee you that you will find many super-stars that never get an opportunity to win big trophies in their careers.
It can work the other way also. The so-called “lesser players” may look up to their big fish as a leader. It may inspire them to improve their own levels, and in-turn, raise the standard of their team performances. That can be of massive benefit and may have long-lasting effects as the next generations strive to be like their idols. Drogba and the Toure brothers from the Ivory Coast have certainly raised the standard in their country and it is now at the stage where we expect that team to qualify for the World Cup every 4 years. A new, higher foundation level has been set as the new starting point for this country.
I spoke with one of my class-mates today about this question and both sides have their positives and negatives. We discussed briefly the soccer scouting system and how it operates. If you are one player in a squad full of very talented players, you are likely to win matches and trophies. This will make the players happy and the whole team is part of it. This makes you part of the jigsaw, the small fish in the bigger pond. However, from a personal point of view, it can be more difficult to get spotted by scouts who are looking for that stand-out performer. That Gerrard in a pack of Nevilles. That Drogba in a pack of Ameobis. Chances are that you will be overlooked. However, turn things around a second and think of the big fish that plays in Division 4 with the team that finishes mid-table. He is the top performer week-in, week-out. Is he more likely to get spotted due to his stand-out-ability? Is he sacrificing his success with the team to get noted on a personal level?
There are advantages to every fish and pond size. As the smaller fish, you are part of process. You are more than likely going to be successful in your area due to the equal/higher quality that surrounds you, but you may never receive personal accolades. As the big fish, you are the one in the limelight. Your team may not achieve the success that you feel your talent deserves, but you will always be seen as the top dog. Any success or failure will be on your shoulders and you will be the one to look up to. This poses the question whether you are motivated more by team/personal success? And everyone will be different and have their own preference. On a final note, it doesn’t matter which pond you swim in. As long as you swim with some purpose, you will be able to be proud of yourself.