In a Season of Change, Unity Remains

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

When everything changes, change everything.

Not a bad philosophy to live by. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Or, rather, sometimes the best response to life’s challenges is to act outside of one’s comfort zone and modify your actions.

Except, maybe that’s not always true…

In the Mercury’s case, perhaps the only thing that hasn’t changed this season is the team’s unity. And that friendship has been instrumental in staying optimistic through tough times (missing the playoffs, etc.).

Better said, the one thing that has been constant throughout the year is the team’s togetherness.

This season has been the definition of a roller coaster; much of which the team has no control over. But they’ve always done a remarkable job of responding positively to the things they can control.

And that starts with a commitment to each other to stay together no matter what.

"This team has been resilient and has really stayed together in spite of all that has occurred his season,” Mercury center Krystal Thomas reflected. “We are all going through this together, so we lean on each other for strength. That's exactly what a team means."

Thomas mentions how important it has been to lean on each other for strength. What a beautiful concept, no? It sounds cliché to continually reference the stereotypical building blocks of a successful team (respect, hard work, dedication, etc.) but those have been the exact characteristics the team has relied on over the past five months.

Going through a losing season can easily cause multiple rifts throughout a team. Yet, that hasn’t been the case for the 2012 Phoenix Mercury.

“We really have stayed together through all this,” said Alexis Hornbuckle. “A lot of times, a season like this can break a team but we’ve actually grown as a team and friends. Obviously we want to win more but we really have continued to work hard and put in the extra hours to get better. To us, there isn’t another choice.”

In virtually every situation in life, unity is necessary for survival and advancement. The same is true in sports. Each member of the team has to set aside self-centered thinking and ego’s in order to accomplish the team’s collective goal.

Maybe the annual goal of a championship won’t be fulfilled this year. It stings, sure, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. By far, the best part about this Mercury team is that the aforementioned principles have been effortless, natural and unforced.

“It’s been tough with all the injuries but it hasn’t divided the locker room or caused any major issues,” said Candice Dupree, who has missed a considerable amount of time due to an injury herself. “It actually has brought us closer together.”

So, why is any of this important? Why does this matter in a losing season?

Because integrity matters. Working hard matters. Staying true to the team matters. This means a conscious and deliberate effort to stay together through tough times.

Some (or, in this case, many) things in a season might not go your way, but it’s how you respond that ultimately matters most.

And as a team, their response has always been constructive rather than destructive.

“I’m definitely proud of that,” said a smiling, confident DeWanna Bonner. “I think it says a lot about our team.”

It speaks volumes for the team, yes, but also to the character of each player.

Unity matters.