What makes a successful team?The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning writers Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in the Superior Telegram.
What does it mean to be a team?
According to Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, a team player is one “who willingly works in cooperation with others.” Teamwork is the “cooperative effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause.”
A team works collectively to achieve success.
Over the past 25 years, I have coached basketball, football and baseball. What has concerned me is the evolution of what I call the “dark side of sports.” By this, I simply mean that during the past 50 years I have been involved in sports, there has been a noticeable shift away from the definitions listed above.
Without total commitment to the team concept, what success can there be? Everyone has heard the saying, “There is no I in team.” Those six words are the first commandment of team sports.
There have always been players and parents in every sport who are more concerned with individual accomplishments than with the success of the team. Over the years it seems these numbers have grown at an alarming rate. If you are going to allow your child to be on a team, it is important to set a good example and cheer for all as a collective unit. This should be the second commandment of a team’s philosophy: “The individual success of each player is secondary to the success of the team.”
The decline in the team concept seems to be related to the amount of media coverage pampered athletes — from youth to the professional level — have received over the years. On ESPN you can watch high school basketball and football games. I wager that in the next few years, junior high school events will be covered.
Individual exploits are highlighted to the degree that the success of the whole is not as important as the statistical success one attains.
Perhaps the influence or reality television, beginning with “Survivor” a decade ago, has contributed to the decline of teamwork. Reality TV is the antithesis of teamwork; it stresses the “me first” attitude and contestants are encouraged to win at all costs.
Playing high school and college sports was a big thrill for me. The camaraderie, working together to achieve a team goal, the friendships developed and maintained over the years, the games, the crowds and the hours of practice to achieve success together are highlights of my life. Who scored the points, hit the home runs or scored the touchdowns was not important. Sharing in the excitement of a teammate’s success created a bond and closeness. Commandment number three should be, “Who cares who scores?”
I don’t want to overburden you with too many commandments. Sports should be simple and fun. They should teach life lessons participants: Be humble but proud of your skills; don’t be cocky but be confident; be a paragon of virtue regarding good sportsmanship. Regardless of your age, there are those younger than you who will be influenced by your play and mannerisms. Being a good teammate translates directly to being a better person.
In 1994, ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale produced a video called Game Plan for Life. Since my copy of the video was loaned to persons unknown about fifteen years ago, I will paraphrase the theme as I remember. The video was shot at a Nike Camp with many of the top high school basketball players in the nation in attendance. Vitale’s message was simple: “Be the best person you can be. Be the best teammate you can be. Don’t be jealous of another’s success because of your lack of success. Before going to bed each night, look in the mirror, directly in your eyes, and ask yourself if you were the best person you could be that day. The mirror does not lie.”
I wish every team in our area success, the opportunity to participate with others in the team concept and truly live by the three commandments listed above. Parents and players need to become more in tune with what is important — being a good teammate and working together to achieve success.
Team sport at all levels is a microcosm of our society. The more success our society has, the more success we are likely to experience as individuals. It is the same with a successful team. The more success our teammates have, the more success we are likely to have. When this is embraced by everyone throughout all aspects of our lives, things will be better.
As the new school year approaches, we should all remember the following: Parents be parents and let the coaches coach and the teachers teach. Encourage your child to be the best teammate, schoolmate and person possible. If every school, town, city and individual in our country follows this common sense, we can remain the best “team” in the world.
It’s never too late. It’s really quite simple.
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