Monday, July 12, 2010
Take One For the Team
As a stay at home dad I often hear other parents commenting that they want their kids to play team sports in order to learn teamwork skills. This is one of those easy to agree with yet hollow maxims. Unless you plan on a career as a galley slave I have to ask how important are teamwork skills. Life, as I’ve experienced it, is nearly one hundred percent taking the initiative and doing it yourself.
Sure it’s important to know how to work with others and to delegate responsibility, but those are social and managerial skills, not team skills. Team building exercises and that Walmart “hi I’m a team member” nonsense all look and smell like con jobs. If Walmart were truly interested in creating a team environment the three Walton kids wouldn’t all be among the ten richest people on the planet.
The real world is a small group of superstars supported by a “team” of worker bees. In this respect professional bicycle racing is a good metaphor for life. Lance Armstrong could never have won seven Tours without the support of an incredibly strong team, but how many people can name even one of those domestiques. Armstrong proved seven times that he was the most talented, strategic and fit rider in the race, but that wouldn’t have even got him to the podium without an elite team.
Personally I see individual team sports such as wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, cross country, and track as more worthwhile life lesson delivery devices. Sure there is a team victory in each of these sports, but that is more of an afterthought; few wrestlers or gymnasts would give up their individual win in exchange for a team victory. The primary goal is to win your event; team victory is icing on the cake.
Life is all about stepping up and doing it yourself, you can’t rely on the team.