Earlier this week, I was having a discussion with my pal, Jon Corripo on collaboration and teams. He asked me if I knew of the X Games and how those athletes worked. Boy, do I know the X Games! We have taken many trips to the X Games, to watch Moto X when my son was younger and the skate competitions as he got older. When Jon brought it up, I had many flashbacks and "ahas".
My son has been a skater for about 10 years. I remember I was really sad when he decided to quit baseball for skating. He was a great ball player and I really wanted him to be a part of a team. But, he was not happy playing ball, and found his passion in skating. I spent close to 8 years carting him and his friends around to different skate parks, skate spots and skate competitions. As I watched these kids interact, I remember a "switch flip" moment. Although these kids weren't on a "team", they were the epitome of a team. I remember pointing this out to Trevor, the many times we watched Pro Skateboard Competitions.
Here is what I learned from the Skater Nation (both professionals and amateurs)
1. Egos are checked at the door: As with anything, there are some people who excel at some things, more than others. But what I have witnessed in these skaters, it doesn't matter. They have a culture where they all treat each other the same. Feelings don't get hurt when someone is better at something. No one gets mad, when another gets recognition. There are no grudges, if someone gets some extra attention. The professional skaters that my son and I have met are some of the most humble guys I know. They do not hesitate to interact, help or encourage their fans or peers.
2. Everyone has his/her own strengths: It is interesting when you sit back and watch skaters. At first glance, to the layman's eyes, they all look the same. Flipping boards, jumping, grinding. But as you get to understand it all a bit better, you see that everyone has their own style and their own strength. Each individual is doing their own thing AND helping others along the way. They want their friends to excel as well, so they teach, coach and encourage each other to grow.
3. They all encourage each other: I really noticed this one during competitions, especially in the Pros. Anytime someone did a "run" or trick, all of the others would clap and cheer them on. They weren't paying attention to the scores to see who was better. They are not "score keepers". After every run, the skater would come back and get hi-fives or hugs from the others. During professional competitions, the camera would often pan onto the other "competitors'" faces during a run, and we would see the emotion on their faces. You would see happiness when their peers were successful and sadness during a fail. So although, they were technically, competing against each other, they worked more like a team than I have seen most teams work. It was quite fascinating.
4. They push each other: I noticed this one when my son skated with his friends (or even strangers). The thing about skating, you really need to have persistence and grit. You need the will to keep pushing forward because you will have many fails and many falls. What these skaters do, is they push each other. It may be in the form of playful teasing or a fun game of "one upsmanship"; but it is all for the purpose of helping each other grow. It is not adversarial by any means, it is quite the opposite. It is never a real competition. They rally around each other for the greater good.
5: They offer support: I used to think that skating wasn't a sport and definitely not a team sport. Boy was I wrong. It is not only exhausting physically, but mentally. In such a situation, it is important to have a tribe. What I have seen is that these skaters are always there for each other. To pick each other up (literally and figuratively) when they fall. When one feels like giving up, another is there to offer support. When one of them gets hurt, and can no longer skate, he still goes out and supports. You hear a lot of positive encouragement in the skate park (with some cuss words thrown in), but they are there for each other.
6: They celebrate each other: I love this one. When the pro skaters are interviewed, they ALWAYS give compliments to their "competitors" (who are more like team mates). They don't ever try to hold each other back, they do the opposite...they try to propel each other forward...through words, actions and attitudes.
7: Each individual is allowed to create their own path: Not one of these skaters is doing the exact same thing, in the exact same way. They create their own path based on their specific passions, strengths, purposes, goals. And that's ok! They hone their craft, in their way and it will look different...but that does not mean that anyone is trying to "pull ahead" or promote themselves further. It just means they are on a different journey, and that should be celebrated.
Who would have thought that a culture, that can have such a negative connotation, is actually probably one of the most functional systems I have witnessed. What if every team could work under these7 tenants? Maybe we wouldn't have to read books, articles, blogs about the dysfunctions of teams. A team should work together, but also should encourage and support each other as individuals. A team should not hold any one member back, and all should feel free to pursue their own passions, while still working within the team. I do believe we are all better together, and I believe the above lessons can help us all shine.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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