“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Lets talk about my first team.
I’ve got teams on the brain today because our annual WCMS fundraiser is tonight. For the last six years I have volunteered to play on the teachers team. I’m going to be honest, I dread it every year. My reasons are two fold. One, I don’t exercise and I fear death is imminent every time I’m on that court and running for more than a few minutes. Two, it’s going to sound awful (I hope you hear me out) I’m just not a team player… at least in the traditional sense.
I wasn’t on any teams in elementary school. The first team I went out for was in 6th grade. I had just moved from Columbia to Houston (Missouri) and the high school girls basketball coach, who I went to church with, convinced me and my parents it would be an opportunity to enmesh myself in my new school. Great idea in theory, poor idea in practice.
You see, I am a BEAR when it comes to rote physical endurance tasks (you know, like running suicides, which you do a lot in basketball practice). By BEAR I mean, my least attractive, amicable, and otherwise decent human being self comes screaming out when pushed to my physical limits (which are low). First I get tired, this becomes frustrated, which gives way to perturbed, and finally I melt down into anger.
Team dynamics take a nose dive when you glare and growl at the person running beside you who is trying to be encouraging with statements like “you can do it” and “only two more.” This combined with the fact that I was never really invested in winning or loosing should have been a harbingers of just how hard this idea was going to crash and burn.
To me, it was just a game. I didn’t get upset when we lost, we had another game next week to try again. I wasn’t over the moon when we won, we could just have easily lost under different circumstances. I finally gave up basketball after my freshman year as I had no natural talent or love for the game and was ultimately a subpar teammate.
I did take up tennis in high school. Aside from being forced to play doubles, this was my kind of sport. No one else relied on me. It wasn’t overly rigorous, physically speaking. I could be as uncompetitive as I wished. Bonus, it kept my parents out of my hair about being a homebody.
Lets get back to my prior statement, “I’m just not a team player.” This was overwhelmingly true of me from 1st to 12th grade, in every way. I didn’t like team competitions. I was a strong member of the Forensics Club only because I could compete individually. When given a group project, if there was no type A member, I’d happily do it all myself. When the teacher said “you can team up to finish” I had no problem telling even the closest of friends I didn’t want to work with them. Most of this was due to the fact that I had a very hard time relating to people prior to college, even friends. I didn’t understand most kids my own age, and I don’t think they really understood me (a very common teenage angsty idea) .
College changed that. All of the sudden there were lots of people relatively close to my own age who understood me. I enjoyed group projects because it actually felt like a collaboration, a meeting of the minds. Thirteen years later (I think I just had a mini stroke doing that math) I would say “team player” is one of my predominate characteristics. Going solo isn’t nearly as appealing of an idea, not when I have so many brains to pick, more experienced practitioners to take tips from, and friends to share struggle and success with.
Several months ago my sister-in-law posted the quote above. Both my niece and nephew are in competitive sports. Both of them take to it like a fish in water. Neither of them are bears when it comes to physical endurance (crazy as it may be, they thrive off it). When I first read, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” my teacher brain shouted amen and started a clap/stomp dance down the isles.
Now that I look back on it, in light of this post, it hits a little deeper personally. I always knew I was a cruddy teammate and felt quite shameful for it. But I think part of being a good teammate is finding the right team. I may not have had the talent for teamwork in my formative years, but once I found my team, I put in a lot of hard work to be the best teammate I can.
For me, no sports team will ever be right, it’s just no where I fit. But the team that I’m in now: teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, parents, janitors, those who see the value of investing their time and energy in kids. They’re a team I’d move mountains for.
…As long as it doesn’t require running suicides. 😉