“I just want to lose myself in the team. It’s all about winning right now.” – Knicks forward Julius Randle
I’m not sure we emphasize how special it is to be a part of a team enough. The dynamic of a team and everything that goes with it – good and bad – is one of the special gifts that sports give you. I don’t think we teach our teams enough about the importance of team.
Think about everything that goes into a team. The diversity of your teammates. The discipline it takes just to be a part of it. The commitment. The sacrifice. Teamwork. Working together with people you like, and some you don’t like. People who are better than you, some who aren’t as good as you. The communication that is necessary. The sheer amount of time you spend together. Everything you learn, good and bad. How to win. How to lose. The connection and investment it takes to be a part of a high-performing team, along with the physical demands of playing a sport, make being a teammate something really special.
I love the phrase Randle used – “lose myself in the team.” We’ve all coached plenty of players who are concerned about the wrong things. Many of them are thinking selfishly – about their minutes, their production, their own situation. What we really want is for everyone to buy into team. And it’s interesting, because we really don’t teach team anywhere else except for athletics. The best universities in the world don’t teach classes in team, yet it’s usually teams of people that are going to make great things happen. Cancer research, finding a vaccine for a pandemic, solving hunger problems in the world – whatever major issues need to be addressed, they are usually addressed by teams of really smart people working together. We teach team in athletics, whether we are really emphasizing it or not.
We love to use the word culture these days, and maybe that takes away from the importance of team. But a culture is really just a shared set of beliefs amongst a team. And that shared set of beliefs is what shapes the team and the players, and really has an impact long-term. But without the shared experiences of the players on the team, your culture is just a poster on the wall or a cute phrase on the back of a t-shirt.
We all hear the word team all the time in our lives, but it’s not quite the same as being a part of a team. Just about every organization calls themselves or team, or even more impactful, a family. Law firms are teams. We have marketing teams. Our athletic department is a team. The people who work together are teammates. But you can’t tell me it’s the same. There is no physical pursuit, and no physical sacrifice, when you are working as a lawyer or a marketing executive. You aren’t lifting together at 7 AM or running extra sprints together in the summer. You go to work, and you try to work together and come up with the best results. It’s just not the same as running suicides together after a 2 hour practice.
I love talking to former players and getting texts from them, and hearing about how much being a part of our team impacted their approach to life after they left college. They recognize how a lot of the hard stuff they did as a team really set them up for success once they graduated. They also always talk about how much they would give to have one more day – one more practice, one more game, one more day in the pre-season – with their team. They realize over time how special it is to be a part of a team. I want my players to recognize it in the moment, while they are a part of the team, so their commitment level reflects it every day.
There’s nothing like being a part of a team. The more kids you can get “lost” in team, the better your team will be.