Thursday, December 10, 2015

Never Underestimate Teamwork

Teamwork is important to a marching band's excellence, just
as it is for a football team, on the gridiron.

One of the best things about competitive sports, especially team sports, is observing how principles that contribute to athletic success also relate to everyday life. Athletes in sports like golf or tennis are basically on their own, vying for victory one-on-one. But in most other sports, the team dynamic is an integral part of what Wide World of Sports used to call “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Taylor Decker, an All-American offensive tackle at the Ohio State University, emphasized this in explaining why he chose to return for his senior year and helped the Buckeyes to another very successful season. He could have left after his junior season and taken his talents to the National Football League but opted to complete his last year of collegiate eligibility.

“A huge reason I came back (was) for that brotherhood, that camaraderie in the locker room,” Decker said. “That’s what makes it fun. Because workouts aren’t really fun, and practice isn’t really fun, but doing it with your guys, doing it with people you love, that’s what makes it fun.”

These key ingredients for effective teamwork – camaraderie, mutual support, and merging of complementary skills – are crucial to a winning effort, not only on the gridiron, basketball court, baseball diamond and soccer field, but also in the business world, the military, music, even in marriage and parenting.

Living in the age of the “selfie,” when many people seem preoccupied with themselves, we’re at risk of devaluing the importance of teamwork. Everyone seems to be screaming, “Look at me!” Few are saying, “Look at us.” But in reality, living and working in isolation can limit us in more ways than one.

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes addresses this powerfully. It states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Watching a football game, we see this demonstrated as offensive linemen join together to open holes for running backs and to protect the quarterback. But we also see it every day in our own lives.

My first job in journalism was serving as editor of a small community newspaper. I was the entire editorial staff, the proverbial “cook and bottle washer.” I did everything from covering city government and school board meetings to writing wedding announcements and obituaries. It was an excellent learning experience, but I felt relieved several years later when the publisher agreed to let me hire an assistant to share the load.

As a father, it’s been my joy and privilege to team with my wife in raising our children and now, pitching in to help with the grandkids from time to time. That’s one reason I so admire the resolve of single parents, striving by themselves to do the job of parenting that’s best done by mom and dad together.

The biblical passage continues, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10). We often see this in action on the football field, when a player is tackled or knocked down and a teammate extends a hand to help him back to his feet. But daily life also has a way of knocking us down, too, and it’s encouraging when a “teammate” – whether at work or in the home – offers a hand to help us back up.

A final portion of the Ecclesiastes passage relates to the gridiron, but I’ve experienced it many times and in many ways during my own life: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). This is one of the values of business partnerships. The principals not only share in the financial investment, but also team together to overcome obstacles, combat adversity, and share their respective talents and gifts in the pursuit of common goals and objectives.

This principle holds true spiritually as well. As Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another….”

Another new year is bearing down on us, and some of us will be setting goals or resolutions to grow spiritually and become more effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ. We’d be wise to recognize this can’t be done in a vacuum, that as we see throughout the Scriptures, spiritual growth and service to the Lord also is a “team sport.”

Who are you going to team with in 2016 to become all you can be for God?

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