Early Lessons About Teamwork

Early Lessons About Teamwork

I’m sharing a team related post as we wrap up the relaunch week for Mark Miller’s book, The Secret of Teams. Will you share a tweet about the book, now?

{Tweet It} Find out what it takes to create an unstoppable team, and learn What Great Teams Know and Do. http://bit.ly/TeamSecret #SecretofTeams

I learned early lessons about teamwork in summers of faded bathing suits, swim caps, bare feet, crushed ice, and tan lines.

The summer I turned nine, my family lived in Colonial Heights, Virginia, in a neighborhood that I can still walk through in my mind, although we only stayed a few years. Only a short walk or bike ride from our home, across a big black-topped parking lot: the swim club.

On the fence outside the swim club, banners announced the success of the club’s team. For years, I can’t remember how many, the team from our neighborhood club had won the local championship.

Even before the pool opened, long before the end of school, being a member of the team meant daily practices. Not in the pool practices — but grueling workouts of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks. Once the summer started, being a member of the team meant showing up at the pool early, by 8 am, for more exercise both in and out of the pool. We swam so many laps I lost count, then we swam more.

I never set any records or brought home any first place ribbons, but I loved being a part of that team.

Being a part of a team allows you to accomplish more than you would alone. At age 9, I was not a star athlete, nor would I ever be. But as a member of the Sherwood Hills Swim Club, I was a champion. I got to share in the success of my teammates, enjoy our victory. One of those early teammates later became an Olympic medalist. When I saw her name in USA Today, I relived the thrill of watching and cheering for my teammates.

Every successful team has a strong coach. Our coach motivated the team with strict disciple and high expectations. To be honest, I was a bit afraid of her. Yet she had a way of attracting top talent, even from beyond the boundaries of our neighborhood. She provided structure and training that produced great results, year after year.

Being a member of a great team requires sacrifice. Each year, when the team resumed its practices, I gave up afternoons playing outside with friends. Instead of lounging around on leisurely summer mornings, I raced to the pool to make it to practice on time.

Team relationships can be a source of frustration and joy. My pre-teen friends and I brought our share of gossip and its resulting drama to the team. Yet, somehow, we pulled together on Thursday nights during meets. We shared Jello from the package for a quick energy boost before a race. We huddled together to stay warm while waiting to get back in the pool for another heat. We cheered for each other until we could hardly speak. We huddled into booths for pizza at the end of the night.

Those days of faded bathing suits and tan lines happened nearly 30 years ago, but their lessons endure.

Tell me something! What is the first team experience you remember? What lessons did you learn from that team experience?

This article originally appeared at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is reprinted here with permission. 


Filed As:  teamwork, swim team

About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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  • I may be remembering this with more fondness than I should (as we are often want to do), but my first professional team experience could have come straight from the pages of many of the authors we study. There were five of us reporting to one director. It was a housing position at a smaller college and we were all “live-in” full-time staff members.
    In retrospect, I have much more of an appreciation for that group that I could have ever recognized at the time. First, the director of the department was very competent in his position and he made sure he was going to surround himself with the best possible people. Over the years, he became a friend and, truly, the first person I would have called a “mentor.”
    When you work together as well as live together and keep a campus covered 24/7, it can create some of the situations that lead to team development on a very deep level. It’s interesting to think back on the personalities and talents that each person on that team brought to the table; things that just right off the page these days when we study team formation and development. We had a very good sense of the strengths and weaknesses each of us possessed. I was the “organizer” (I always knew that OCD thing would come in handy some day). So I became the process and procedures guy. Another was the creative one. Another was the “counselor.” And so on.
    Each of us was stronger in a different area and learned to rely on each other in the areas where we were weaker. Each of us brought differing talents and the pieces came together to make a “whole team.” That team stayed together for almost three years before several of us moved on.
    I have been a part of several pretty amazing teams since those days almost 20 years ago, but I still have such a fondness for that particular group; probably because they taught me so much about leadership without me ever realizing what I was learning.

  • Excellent post on how teams work. When you work on a team, you always have to give up thing for the great good. But the greater good is just that, greater.

  • Good post! My first memories of being on a team aren’t so good…a hockey team that went 0-17! We did get excited about any small success though…a game where we scored a goal, even if the others got 9, was a good thing. Perseverance the lesson perhaps? Your post reminded of this one I wrote about teaching team work to our kids: https://www.davidbcrowley.com/2012/02/06/life-lessons-teaching-teamwork/

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