Life Lessons from Sports -Together is Better

Life Lessons From Sports

Lesson #4 - Together is Better

Over the years I’ve noticed that most of the widely played sports here in the United States have certain things in common. One of them is the team or club concept. Name a popular sport -  perhaps football, basketball, hockey, baseball, or soccer. These sports are organized by teams, not individuals. It’s the New England Patriots not the Tom Brady Patriots. It’s the Golden State Warriors not the Golden State Steph Curry. Why? Because it takes a team just to participate, let alone win! The same can be said for even less popular sports like lacrosse or volleyball or ultimate frisbee, or field hockey or rugby.

How easy we forget that Tom Brady would be a flop if his offensive line didn’t protect him, or his receivers dropped most of his passes, or his offensive coordinator created ho hum game plans, or his center didn’t give him a good snap. Or how about Steph Curry? Would he have such incredible scoring stats if his teammates didn’t share the ball with him, or set screens for him, or hit the boards so that he has a chance to get the ball? Or what if his coach didn’t design an offense tailored to his remarkable skills? What if the non-starters didn’t push him hard in practice or became jealous of his role? Well, you see where I’m going with this. Without his team, his smooth shot envied by thousands, would rarely happen! It is true, the highly skilled players can’t do it alone!

I do understand that each of these sports require individual performance, skill, and effort. A team composed of insanely talented players functioning as a team, will typically beat a team composed of lesser talented players.  However, have you noticed that MVPs rarely come from mediocre teams. In a real sense, MVPs really are beholden to their team’s success for their award. Even individual record holders in team events would not have been successful without the assistance of teammates.

These sports are unlike golf or tennis, or track and field, or swimming, or auto racing, or bowling, or ice skating, or wrestling, or others which predominately feature individuals rather than teams. But, even athletes in these sports are dependent to some extent on a backroom team and organization for their individual success. Where would these athletes be without the trainer, the coach, the agent, the owner, the equipment manager,  parents, sponsors, and others in a variety of supporting roles?

I have observed that teams that fail to buy into the team concept are rarely successful.

Why is this observation so important? Simply put, it is important because if athletes don’t buy into this team concept, down the road life itself could become a painful train wreck. Normally, society won’t tolerate self-centered people. But positively, any organization or loosely knit group or even family that is marked by a “you first” commitment to each other will likely enjoy harmony, contentment, and success.

This should not surprise the Christian. The Bible speaks vividly to this team notion by using the physical body as an illustration of the dynamic that exists between members of organizations such as the church, the “body of Christ.” The word picture is found in 1 Corinthians 15:14-31. After citing various body parts, Paul argues that each part contributes a unique function to the body that the other parts are unable to perform. Because the ear can’t see and the eye can’t hear, the body would be a useless monstrosity if it was composed of all ears or all eyes. And thus, Paul argues that even the less prominent parts of the body turn out to be crucial to the efficient function of the whole body. And in fact there is an amazing interdependence between body parts, “…if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (v 26).  Who hasn’t experienced radiating pain! So, the realty is that all players, even those whose playing time is minimal, contribute to the success of the team and share in failures as well. Wow!

So, if “me” is the way you spell “team” I truly hope, for your sake, that your coach banishes you to the end of the bench if you don’t change your perspective. Whatever it takes to get your attention will be worth it; for you and the team.

Once again we are confronted with the powerful notion that team sports is a life learning laboratory. If you can learn now that you are in it together with your teammates and that your success is intertwined with them, you will be more apt to function joyfully and successfully wherever God puts you in life’s future journey and in whatever capacity.