Team. Not Teams.

January 16, 2024

Most of my happiest memories surround youth sports. I can remember like it was yesterday. It was the first practice of my last year of Little League Baseball. We dumped out the gear bag in the dugout. For those of you that never played baseball, the “gear” was a couple of old bats, some batting helmets, scuffed baseballs, and catcher’s protective equipment. We all surveyed the pile. It was not good. It was all old and worn out. My friend Ian Cummings (shortstop) picked up my “new” catchers mask and said to me, “What the hell is this, a basketball helmet?”

I was 11 years old. I have never stopped using the term “basketball helmet.” If you didn’t know (Kelly Perkins), you don’t wear helmets in basketball. Pretty much anything that I find useless is internally described as a “basketball helmet” to this day.  

Dennis Martin threw so hard off the mound that my left hand was in constant agony.   Ian was always perfection at short. Great arm. Always smiling. Duncan played third. I remember him as being 6 feet tall at the time, but it was probably more like 5 feet. Julie Thomas played first and hit a lot of HR’s. Yeah. It was 1976 and girls were already hitting jacks out of the park. On top of that, we all had a crush on Julie. She had girl parts already. At 12.   

I was 11 years old and I was putting myself in harm’s way for my teammates, as they were for me. I was behind the dish, calling the game. It might be where I learned to lead.   It might just be the moment I decided I like to be the one taking the bullets.

There is no feeling in the world like being on a team. When you know that someone else is going to put themselves between you and something bad, they are going to sacrifice for you truly, it changes you. Even at age 11. Youth sports is a great place to find that out,  but there are many other ways.

I bet you are on a team right now. I also bet that someone on your team at this very moment is preparing to take the heat for something they did not do. They might have learned it playing sports. They might have learned it in theater. Maybe they were just in some sort of club or 4H or whatever. Maybe a rock band. Somebody on your team is taking the heat for somebody else and not making any sort of a big deal of it. That is how you know you are on a team.

In my professional career, I have seen some of the most amazing teams. Integration teams. Sales teams. Engineering teams. I bet if you are reading this, you are on one of those amazing teams I have admired and emulated. You are probably who we modeled our company after.  So if it has been a while since you noticed how amazing your team is, do it right now. And if it has been a while since you were the first one out of the foxhole, running straight into the danger, do that too. You have done it many times in the past.  

I say all this because on this Saturday morning, I am reflecting on the last few years with our team. We are the true essence of team. We all fight over who gets to put on the asbestos suit and head into the burning building. There is not a one of us that would not put themselves in harm’s way for this team.  Not a one. This is no accident, but it is not some sort of plan. All it takes is some recognition of “team.”  It just takes frequent reflection and mention. Our industry is filled with brilliant and talented folks. All it takes to build the best team is to recognize it as such and cherish it.

I know you and your team. You do too. Take a minute and think about it… then say something. That is all it takes. Say something. Write it down like I am doing here. Share it.

I love our team. We have an amazing team. I will run through fire for our team. Our team has changed my life.