There is no “I” in team. – saying that everyone knows

My formative years were spent in the waning of the ‘turbulent fraught with issues 70’s’ and most of the ‘all about money and me 80’s’. My dad was a former football player, and was a football coach, but sports, on my list of my priorities for those first eight years, were on the back burner. At someone else’s house. Hot-stove? No. Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven? Now we’re cooking.

However, by third grade, the formerly super shy little girl in piggy-tails stepped into the talkative, social center of her own universe girl with short hair. (The short hair was not my choice. But I’m getting over it.)

And in the bright, engaging spirit of a third grader I threw myself into the whirl of social circles and soon found myself in the “who’s the best team” talk on the concrete playground.*
*In my grade school years, the struggle was real. We had a concrete playground, and metal jungle gyms, from which you could hang upside down. Yeah, there’s no downside to that, right?

If you have read any of my posts on this blog, you are aware of my long history with football, and largely my long-term relationship with the Seattle Seahawks.

So it was I, with maybe one other kid in my class, who stood up for the ever disappointing Seahawks. Which meant I also stood against the other 98% of kids who loved the winners/popular teams; the 49ers, the Dolphins(?) and the Raiders. And John Elway. Yuck, yuck, yuck and yuck.

After-school sports didn’t really grab my attention. I did track a couple of years in fifth and sixth because of the long jump, which I liked and was surprisingly good at (I’m 5’4 at full height.) Elementary school track wasn’t a team kind of atmosphere, more of a everybody do their own event(s) and the winningest kids are the VIP kind of individual sport.

This is also when you start to see the separation between the kids who have “it”, the kids who with a little extra coaching will have “it”, and the rest of us, who will likely be cheering from the stands in years to come.

But in third grade? Of course there are the talented athletic kids, but there is still the possibility of anyone becoming anything when you are eight and nine.

The third grade social structure is built basically like this: We are at the final glowing moments between everyone is a friend and we include all (early elementary ways); and next, the we are noticing that everyone is different and not all are my friends (welcome to upper elementary social strata).

When my boys were babies, especially my firstborn, and I was worn out, beaten down tired and starting to head down the exhausting tunnel of worry and comparison; I would often call my sister who would always say in one way or another; ‘he’s not a robot’.

This never failed to comfort me and bring me back to reality. In those few words she shared, always lovingly laughing as she did, she reminded me that we were both human, and there was no users manual on how to form this child, this relationship, this bond, this mom.

I’ve repeated this to myself many moments since that day, especially when I get caught in the sticky trap of comparing and worrying-about whether I’m doing this or that ‘right’, what everyone else thinks about how I’m doing whatever, letting those around me down, and worse, worrying about or being embarrassed by my child’s behavior and my parenting (or lack of) skills.

I have to admit that after third grade, sports continued around me, weaving in and out of my days and through the seasons, until junior high.
My team from seventh-tweflth turned out to be the cheerleaders. It fit my fun-loving, free-spirited self just right. It also developed something that didn’t occur to me then; a love of leadership, coaching methods, teaching and the concept of team.

If you’d shared that insight with me then, I would have probably laughed and gone back to my phone with the ginormous cord stretched from the laundry room to my bedroom.

But cheerleading led me to student council, to spending a summer as a camp counselor, strengthened my resolve to earn a teaching degree, allowed me to lead a children’s ministry program in one place, and collaborate in a worship team ministry at another, run a business with a friend, and now, thinking very carefully about how I want our family team to function and .

My team just lost. In the most painful SuperBowl ending ever. It’s going to sting. For awhile, I suspect. Which begs the question: Why? Why am I, and the twelves taking it so hard?

One word. Te(i)am.

There is one person who made me feel better this week, and that was Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks head coach. He’s managed to turn around an entire (losing) franchise and lead it to three straight playoffs, two Super Bowls, and one (ouch) Super Bowl trophy. All in the span of four whole years.

In the past two years I’ve watched and read everything I could find about Pete. It’s not the winning alone that got my attention (new for Hawks fans); it’s how he goes about it.

When Pete Carroll returned post Super Bowl to Seattle last week, he said he woke very early that morning and it finally hit him. After taking care of all of the needs of his players and staff and their families, he was finally able to feel the entirety of what the (very invested) fans of his team had been feeling since the moment we lost.

He considers the fans aka “the 12th man” or “twelves” a real and integral and personal part of the team organization. Pete Carroll has made sure that it’s more than just about a game. He’s heavily invested his heart, (considerable) energy and life to promoting not a brand; but a way to live, in community.

One of the things I admire most about Pete as a person and as a coach is his ability to find, bring in and grow individuals, while allowing them to retain their uniqueness. And all the while, his program centered on providing each person with what they need to excel makes this team a place where ‘I’ is as important as we. Out of this culture, he produces a team of I’s ready to do whatever it takes to win, together.

So what does this look like when you lose? On the biggest stage ever? It looks the same. There is telling the truth, accountability, trust, commitment, openess, authentic feelings, and the never-ending pursuit of competing, everyday in every situation- win or lose.

I like being a winner. But I’m pretty used to losing. The reason I’m unable to yet don a (extensive wardrobe of) Seahawks shirt has less to do with losing, and more about the guys who lost the game.

So, I’ll be watching and listening, cheering on from my spot in the community of twelves, to see how this team of individuals comes together to compete, not just in the game of football.

Because the cameras will go away, the reporters will run out of things to ask, and the bright light of the world-changer’s stage will be shut off.

What are we twelves left with, then?

What are the players left with, then?

What are you left with when you are the loser, on the sideline, in the dark?

I think I’ll stand with the guy who is all in for everyone.

I’ll take a te(i)am, any day.


Love this story about what team can mean:


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