The Team. The Team. The Team.
Some call me old school … I’m ok with that.
Guilty as charged. And, I’m not looking to change that anytime soon.
One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was a young coach was to operate by way of standards, not rules. The more rules you have, the more policing you have to do, and the less freedom you have to consider each individual’s situation. I learned very quickly that fair is not equal and equal is not fair.
For example, a player late because he overslept and a player late because his mom arrived home late from work so he had to put his little sister on the bus are two completely different situations. We would not treat them the same in our program - fair is not equal and equal is not fair.
We do, however, have one rule that is equally applied to all. It’s been disputed, debated, and argued numerous times over the years but remains a steadfast rule for our teams.
If you watch a basketball game this week, take note of how many teams have zero players without one of those items. The number will be small, likely zero.
I know. I know. You don’t see what the big deal is. And, maybe it’s not. But, I’m not changing it.
Let me explain because I think it applies to all teams, not just a basketball team.
Why Should We Care?
One of the central aspects of being a part of a team is choosing - yes, choosing - to make personal sacrifices for the betterment of the group. That’s the price you pay for being part of something that can accomplish more than you ever could on your own. The team is not about you. The team is about the team.
It seems we have started to attempt to dilute this reality under the guise of individual freedom. Well, it’s not individual freedom. You’re not an individual. You’re a member of a team. By choosing to be on the team, you’ve also chosen to sacrifice some of those individual freedoms. That’s the deal. Welcome to a team.
I’ve heard all the claims about how I’m thwarting a player's personal expression, limiting their performance, even stunting their growth. And, I get it seems trivial to most. That’s ok. I’m not asking for approval.
Let me ask you a question: What is the tipping point for teamwork? At what point does a team either tip to be all about each other, the team? Or, at what point does the team fail to function as a cohesive group? Do you know the answer? Yea, me either. I just know this rule is a tally mark on the side of the team. We all have to pick our battles based on the significance of their impact. This is a battle I choose to fight for the ‘look good’ police.
That’s the most common refute - “Coach, I like the way it looks … look good, play good, right?”
No, that’s not right.
In a team sport, you play ‘good’ when you play together. You play ‘good’ when you are connected to your teammates. You play ‘good’ when you have deep trust in those you are playing with. You play ‘good’ when you are invested in the team and faithfully do your job. You play ‘good’ when you give yourself to the team. And this is where I have a problem with the … accessories.
I think these accessories are ways to separate yourself from the team. Sure, it might be your thing, but this isn’t about your thing. It’s about our thing. Anything pulling against our thing is an issue.
Of course this isn’t the final straw or the end all be all. But it’s definitely a part of the bigger picture that is often accepted at the expense of a tiny chink in the armor of team cohesiveness. A bunch of tiny chinks leads to a crack.
I’m sure there are similar areas in your profession that correspond to these accessories.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
So what about the individual? They’re important, right?
Yes, the individual is important. Teams are made of individuals. Individuals that accept the standards and norms of the team. Individuals that prioritize the team over themselves. This is the essence of a team. No sacrifice equals no team.
Here are a few ideas to help your team place us ahead of me.
I love teams. How awesome is it that we can do things as a team that we could never come close to doing on our own? Or how about the fact that a team with far less talent could outperform a team with far superior talent? Embrace it or fight it, but the truth is clear: Life is a team sport. Your willingness to embrace the sacrifices required within your team will determine the level of excellence it can rise to.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.