I want to talk about teamwork. We all have a good idea of what it is. We’ve seen the Nike ads and felt the goosebumps watching movies. But I witnessed the most clear and brilliant iteration of teamwork this past summer in our sport and I need to share.
First an aside….In my experience, parents and sailors will always choose a private lesson over a team practice. Quality over quantity. Individualized focus over group dynamics.
This is the introductory model, or even sophomoric template, for progression in sport. What I’m pushing toward is world class development. The upper crust.
Fact: Lots of teams lose their grip on efficiency because of weak links in the chain. Or worse, complacent links who don’t rig properly, or eat breakfast, or stay up all night and show up tired. Geeze, I can’t stand that.
A practice can become worthless. Resentment builds between teammates, frustration peaks, people check out. Trust me, I’ve been there. We face this possibility every time we bring a group of people together, and it takes some nuance and tactics to weave personalities together so everyone gets their fair shake.
First step is to get on the same page.
My brother Luke once wrote that teamwork begins with trust. And not just trusting your mate to do their job, but trust them with your dreams and your relentless pursuit to actualizing them. A true teammate will not only work to fulfill their dreams but also honor yours.
Two summers ago I watched a group of misfit teens come together to do just that.
Skiff kids from Cali (the cool guys), Massachusetts (team fun), the girls from Miami (the brains and fire), and the Miami dudes (party boys).
We leveraged the attitudes, interests, and desires of our unique cadre and it produced the most intimate levels of dedication, accountability, and progression I’ve yet to see. We established a culture of excellence and rose to the standard. How?
Step 1: We started with a goal. We identified the mission. We set an expectation for ourselves and worked daily to meet it. We named our Snapchat group “Youth Worlds Podium Squad.” Eyes always on the prize.
Step 2: Make a plan. Create structure. Campaign together. We established and honored a routine. Then once we sank into a comfortable level of routine, we modified. We pushed harder.
Step 3: We accepted failure. We practiced humility. If you haven’t read our post about Kaizen, check it out because it outlines the concept of “constant improvement.”
Here’s what I know: These athlete stand on the shoulders of giants. We hold the keys to the vault of all the accessible information in the history of the world in our pocket. Knowledge, expertise, and experience of current and former sailors, coaches, sailing nerds and statisticians.
This next generation shines brighter.
“Talent wins games, and teamwork wins championships,” says Michael Jordan, Who was not just the most famous athlete of my childhood, he was the most famous person in the world. His talent, ruthless competitiveness, and likable persona elevated him to godlike status.
I love this quote so much I’m going to write it again.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.”
In the sailing world, specifically the junior level, the concept of the team is not pursued, developed, utilized to its potential.
It’s a safe bet to say that when given the choice between A) a private lesson with a coach and B) a team practice, if the price were the same; the overwhelming majority would opt for the solo lesson*.
*Before I get too far down this rabbit hole, know that I recognize the need and value of an intimate training session that focuses solely on technique and movement, free from distraction. Good work is done in this setting.
However, I want to tell you what I’ve re-discovered about teamwork because it’s given me a whole new perspective on how to leverage each athlete’s skill set, personality, and talent to embolden the team dynamic.
Last summer we pulled together a cadre of the nation’s top talent in the 29er class to push the level. We were ruthless. Intense on water sessions followed by knock down drag out debrief sessions where we argued, debated, and resolved the ideas and techniques we employed in racing.
Humans are social learners and as such we struck a balance toward group harmony in spite of managing the tumult of emotional and physical fatigue in our training for Worlds.
-Putting thoughts and feelings into words
-taking away the unknowns in decision making
-sharing the energy levels
-trust, competitive fuel, honesty “raising bs flag”
-elevating our national effort
Moving forward, I believe we need to implement this model to our squads, regions, etc and lift each other up. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Teenagers are incomplete humans. Shit, so are adults. But together we fill in each other’s weak spots. And set fire to our flash points.
1) Confidence is cultivated
2) Success is not accidental
3) Trust your instincts
4) Sail with joy