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Atomic City Update: World Cup shows that hard work pays off at all levels of sports

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By Phil Scherer

If this year’s World Cup has taught us anything, it is that success is never guaranteed, and the value of hard work can never be overlooked. 

For the fourth time in the previous five World Cups, the defending champion has been eliminated prior to the knockout stages. 

This time, that defending champion is Germany, the country ranked as the top team in the world by FIFA. 

In a stunning turn of events, the Germans lost the opening match 1-0 against Mexico, but appeared to be back on track with a last-minute win against Sweden in the second match. 

However, the hopes and dreams of the players and fans came crashing down with a 2-0 loss against South Korea in the final match of the group stage. 

Not only did the Germans not advance, but they finished at the bottom of their group. After allowing only four goals in the 2014 World Cup en route to a championship, the Germans allowed four goals in the group stage alone this year, and have plenty of questions to answer over the next four years until the next World Cup. 

Heading into the tournament, it was considered a certainty that Germany would advance to the knockout stage, just as they had at every previous World Cup. But in sports, nothing can be assumed or taken for granted. I will put this in perspective, on a much smaller scale, for those of you who are fans of northern New Mexico High School sports. 

The Germans not making the knockout stage at the World Cup is the equivalent to Albuquerque Academy failing to reach the NMAA state soccer playoffs, or Española Valley failing to reach the state basketball playoffs. 

But the important thing to remember is that anything is possible, and that is what makes sports so compelling at every level of competition. For all the high school coaches out there, you can use the example of this year’s World Cup as a motivator for your teams. It can work both ways. For teams that have been historically good, remind them that they still have to put the work and the effort in to stay at the top. 

The Germans just assumed they would make it through, especially heading into a match against South Korea, which was expected to be a blowout in favor of the defending champions. 

Throughout the game, though, the Koreans, who were playing for nothing but pride, showed more effort, more determination and more heart. The underdogs walked away with a 2-0 win, and will be proud to return to their country. 

And that’s the lesson that coaches of struggling teams can give to their teams. 

Eventually the effort will pay off. Even if your team doesn’t have as much talent as another team does not mean they are unbeatable. 

On any given day in any given sport, a team with less talent that works hard and does things the right way can come out on top. 

Over and over again, sports prove that you can never assume victory or defeat. No matter how bleak the outlook may seem, you can always find a way to win. 

This is also a great reminder that if you are on a team that is fortunate enough to win a championship at any level, be sure to cherish it and soak in the moment, because getting back to that level is so difficult, and rarely happens. Even the best teams struggle to get back to the top of that mountain year after year.

So, always remember to work hard every day, whether it is in practice or a game. Always keep pushing for a victory, because it is possible. And when you have success, enjoy it as much as you can. Because nothing is sports is promised, and nothing in sports is guaranteed.