Hopefully Smells Like Team Spirit got your attention and you probably have the Nirvana song in your head now. There are a lot of great things about sports, but the greatest is being a part of a team. Being a part of team through sports teaches valuable lessons and prepares our youth for the working world. No matter what professional career one has chosen, teamwork will be required. This week we’ll focus on the values that help foster teamwork and a great team spirit.
If you have not seen the ESPN 30 for 30 special Survive and Advance, please do. It chronicles the 1983 NC State men’s basketball team who won the NCAA tournament in one of the greatest upset victories of all time. The team is a great example of what can happen when true team spirit is cultivated. The coach of this team was the late, great Jim Valvano. With regards to teamwork, Coach Valvano said, “A person does not become whole until he or she becomes a part of something bigger than himself or herself.” Coach Valvano hit it on the head and I completely agree with him. By being a part of a team we have a purpose that is greater than our own wants. I believe all coaches must create a culture where players are truly a part of something bigger than themselves. I’ll go into more detail on how to do this in later posts, but if a culture exists where everyone who is involved believes they are a part of something special, great things happen. There is no better feeling in sports than being a part of something greater than yourself and accomplishing what you set out to do with your teammates. The scores of games, wins, and losses all go away, but the memories of those special moments shared with teammates last a lifetime.
In order to truly have and develop a great team there has to be a belief in one word: WE. We’ve all heard the phrase “There is no I in team” a million times, so I won’t bore you and talk about that. But I do want to discuss how teams come to the power of we. First and foremost the leader of the team must appreciate the power of WE. This means that all members are valued for their contributions. Leaders cannot only acknowledge and value the appreciations of the team stars or headline grabbers. Leaders must stop and take the time to show genuine appreciation for all team members. This needs to be done in front of the entire team, and not behind closed doors. Only when public appreciation is shared in front of the team can all team members truly appreciate everyone involved. If the leader of the team wants to have the “Power of We” on their team, they absolutely must lead with gratitude for all team members.
In doing research for team spirit I came across a wonderful story about a mule called Old Warwick. The story goes like this. One night a man was driving on a two-lane road through the country. The man got lost, tried to pull a map out to read, and then drove into a ditch. The man was uninjured and walked down the road to a farmhouse to get help out of the ditch. When he got to the house the farmer said, “Old Warwick can get you out of the ditch.” Warwick was an old, worn down mule, but the man figured he had nothing to lose, so he took the farmer and Warwick back to his car. The farmer hooked up Warwick to the car, snapped the reins and yelled, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull, Warwick!” And with very little effort Warwick pulled the car from the ditch.
Somewhat amazed, the man asked the farmer why he shouted all the names before Warwick’s. The farmer smiled and said, “Old Warwick is just about blind. As long as he believes he’s part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling.” What a great story! We should all want to be like Warwick, willing to do anything just to be a part of a team and contribute.
Lastly, I want to leave you with something to remember. It comes from a Rudyard Kipling poem and says, “The strength of the pack is the wolf. And the strength of the wolf is the pack.” A true team has no individuals, but rather a group united for the greater good. Unless you’re in a one man wolf pack like Alan…
I believe if we take and use the lessons from above we can be great teammates and help our team become something special.
Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!