Are we sure that there is no “I” in “TEAM?” Students in the very early elementary grades can tell you that, based on spelling alone, this is a correct statement. While it isn’t known who first made this statement, it is widely used by coaches in many different sports for the purpose of encouraging players to work together in order to accomplish their established group goals. Legendary Green Bay Packers head coach and two-time Super Bowl champion Vince Lombardi stressed the
importance of teamwork in sports and in life when he said “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” But is the message that is at the heart of this often-used quote really as simple as it sounds? Maybe not.
In order for a team to be successful, the required collaborative effort must build on each team members’ unique strengths. Within the team, each individual team member must have thoughtfully assigned and clearly defined roles and responsibilities that match his or her talents and skills. Team members must understand their unique roles and work within the expectations for filling these roles. But the responsibility doesn’t stop there. Team leaders must clearly communicate the value of each team member in accomplishing the team goals. Having received this information, each team member must respect the unique talents and competencies of each individual and must hold firm the belief that the successful completion of each person’s role within the team is critically important if the ultimate team goal is to be realized.
Consider this within the context of Super Bowl 50. Cam Newton and Peyton Manning will start at the quarterback position for the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, respectively. The role of a quarterback can be simply defined as “a player who leads a team’s attempts to score usually by passing the ball to other players.” What is not so simply defined is the unique set of skills that each one brings to his team. In addition to passing ability, sportswriters cite Newton’s rushing ability and athleticism as keys to his team’s success, while work ethic and knowledge are more commonly associated with Manning. Each quarterback is bringing a unique set of skills to the position. His teammates must be properly positioned and possess the individual strengths needed to support the quarterback if the team is to be successful.
Each team member brings unique intelligence, insight, ingenuity, influence and instincts to his position. All NFL teams want to reach a Super Bowl, but achieving this goal can’t happen without thoughtful communication and placement of players whose defined strengths and positions within the team are carefully considered and used in such a way as to provide maximum benefit. While there may not be an “I” in “TEAM,” there is an “I” in “Super Bowl ChampIon.”