Friday, August 15, 2008

It Takes a Team

It appears everyone is waxing rhapsodic about the Olympic performances. But, we can indulge when it only happens every two years, right!

Lately, I've been thinking about the sports where there is an individual as well as a team component. For example, gymnastics and swimming. In men's gymnastics, the USA didn't have the goods individually to medal in the All-Around competition. Yet, those same gymnasts performed as a team to take the Bronze. Their individual performances combined to out-perform the other teams.

In men's swimming, the converse of the above is true: Michael Phelps does have what it takes to out-swim everyone in the field, yet he also participates in the relay teams where, regardless of his own physical strengths, the team will win or lose based on their combined efforts. He swims in those relays for the team.

I'm wondering...which victory is sweeter?

If Phelps was swimming alone with just the clock--no crowd, no team mates, no journalists--would his accomplishments be as meaningful to him? (Probably so in his case)! One could argue that even in the absence of all the noise, Phelps' mom is his team every event! But, the point I'm trying to make is that the team animates the dream. The team makes it real. The team validates the experience. When Soni took the Gold in the breast stroke last night, it was her team that shouted the loudest praise and it was to her team she looked first (after she saw the time)!

So much of what we do as human beings we do alone. I think of Wylie. It's Wylie that sits in his chair at school trying to make his pencil write letters that somehow conform to what we recognize. It was Wylie up on top of that platform 25 feet high getting harnessed to push himself off down the zipline. No one could do it for him. Most of the hard work of these athletes (gymnasts and swimmers alike) is done alone. Work out after work out.

Yet, at the same time, much of what we do as human beings we do as a team. We cheer one another on to victory. We shout warnings when there is danger, we pick up and embrace the wounded. We lead others by our example. It is the promise of the shared victory that creates energy for us to do what we have to do alone. We strive for our personal best to support the team's best.

I guess at the end of the day, what I hope for is this: in Wylie's life...even when he's alone...I want to him to know...we're his team. Everyone should have a team. Everyone should be inspired to give more in what they have to do alone in order to advance what we all do as a team.

And, I think that's why we're all so enthralled with the Olympics.

We believe in the team. We are the team.

At the risk of sounding a lot like the Visa commercials lately...Go World.

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