I’ve been playing sports since I was a little kid. My parents put me in a bunch of different ones; I played basketball, football, baseball, track, swimming, and soccer. Most of the sports were team sports and I still carry with me all the lessons I’ve learned throughout the years to this day. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that sports are a great learning tool and metaphor for life. The lessons you learn playing are much bigger than the actual sport itself. We’ve all experienced working on a team at some point whether that has been in sports, a group project in school, or at your job. We have all had to work with others and at times it can be easy and other times it’s very difficult. However, in most cases you can accomplish a lot more with the help of others than you can by yourself. There's a saying that says, “Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.” When you work in a team you get different perspectives, different skill sets, and usually increased productivity. One of my dad’s favorite sayings when I was a kid especially when it came time for us to clean the house was that if we all as a family work together and do it, we will finish it much quicker than if I just have to do it myself.
Collaboration with others is something that never stops will go on for the rest of your life. One of the reasons why employers like hiring former athletes so much is that they know athletes know how to work in teams, which is very important in the business world today. They know the experiences you’ve gained from being on team in a competitive atmosphere and in high pressure situations are things you can’t teach, and they know that will benefit their company. In this post I want to share the 5 things that playing on a team has taught me.
Letting Go of Ego (We over Me)
One of the biggest things that can get in the way of team and workplace success is having a big ego. When I played at Miami, we had all different types of players with many strong personalities and I liked that. There is nothing wrong with having strong personalities because it can be good for a team and they tend to balance each other out. But when you have people whose own individual ego gets in the way of the team and they start to think they’re bigger and more important than the team, that’s where problems and dysfunction usually arise. My junior year we had that issue and instead of being focused on what we had to do as a team to come together and perform well, we had to deal with a lot of team internal issues and that led to us not winning. I think if we would have had more of a “we over me” mentality during that time, we could have resolved the issues a lot quicker and our play on the court would have been better
Learning to Work with Different Personalities
As I said previously, we had a lot of different personalities on the team and it made for a very interesting team dynamic but when we were all in sync with each other we had a lot of success on and off the court! One of the things that I learned is that not everyone is going to respond to something the same way. The saying “it’s not what you say but how you say it” is very true. For some guys on the team, if you yelled at them or cussed them out, that got them going. If you took the same approach to another guy, he might respond negatively to it and his performance suffers. For others, if you just tell them what they need to do and talk to them regularly, they respond to that. Part of being a leader on a team and being a good teammate or group member is knowing what levers to pull and what gets certain people going. You have to understand that each person is different and the more time you take to learn what drives and motivates them, the more success you’ll have as a collective.
Rallying Together in the Midst of Conflict
Throughout the course of the season there were times when things just weren’t going our way and we might have lost a couple games in a row or were struggling to figure it out. There were times when people on the outside were doubting us but as a team we had to rally together in the midst of those conflicts. Only the people in your locker room or group know how much work and sacrifice you’ve put into what you are doing and because of that, anything else is just noise. I remember during my senior year, we got a new coaching staff and they came to talk to the team before we went home for the summer. We were picked to finish last in the conference for the upcoming season and he told us that he knew what we possessed in this locker room and what they had in them as a staff and that there was no way we were going to finish last! Despite what everyone else said, we ended up finishing 3rd in the conference and played in a post season tournament for the first time since 2011. We had stretches through the course of the season where we lost a couple games in a row and struggled at times, but throughout that we always believed in each other and knew we were going to figure it out.
Trusting that the Guy Next to Me has My Back
When we were going through those hard times, I had to trust that the person next to me had my back. When things get hard, I didn’t have time to question if someone is going to be there for me on the court, I just had to know it. That trust came from those hard workouts, practices where a guy on the team just didn’t have it that day and you had to pick it up for them. I knew that regardless of differences we might have had, when it came time to handle business on the court, this guy was going to be there for me. I feel like it’s probably a lot deeper when you play on a team compared to at work or in a school project group because you spend so much time together from class, practice, road trips and you are around each other almost 24/7. The saying of “I am my brother’s keeper” is true and why trust is one of the most important aspects of working on a team or in a group.
Support Others and be Happy for Others Success
It should make you genuinely happy when others on your team succeed. One of the sayings my close circle of friends always say is that, “when one of us eats, we all eat.” You have to get outside of yourself and when you’re focused on helping someone else get what they want, it usually comes back to you and you get what you want. That’s what was so great for me is that being part of a team, you can’t get the individual success without the team and everyone contributes to that individual. When you get lost in just doing what you can to help the team to the best of your abilities, good things happen, and everyone is able to shine!
These are a few things that I’ve learned from being in a team environment for most of my life and I will carry these skills with me forever. As the world progresses you have to be able to collaborate with others at a high level and the better you can do it, the more sought after you become. People want to be around other people that are easy to work with and if you can master some of these skills, you will have a leg up on everyone else. I would love to hear some examples of what you have learned from working with others and the value of teamwork! Drop a comment in the section below!