Protect the Team

How significant is the TEAM?
Volleyball club team

How significant is the TEAM?

China believes it’s so significant that in 2014 over 273,000 students from the age of 14 and up chose to attend schools in the USA. Chinese families are doing everything in their power to ensure that their children have the best education and experiences that will transfer to life-long success when returning to China after graduation.

In speaking with Chinese students attending The Ohio State University, I learned one of the top reasons they have chosen to attend college here is to acquire collaborative learning skills–learning to work together towards a common goal with each person recognized as an important member of the group, and accountable to one another for the outcome. In short, they are learning to work as a TEAM.

One important avenue these students discover is through participation in sports activities. They’re signing up for volleyball, badminton, ballroom dancing, and other activities in droves—experiences not found in a traditional Chinese high school or university. Upon returning to China post-graduation, the students continue to practice their sport and search for others who share their interest as well. They have realized not only the importance but also the satisfaction that comes from being on a team.

Working as a team and working together to reach a common goal has been an important component to education and sports in the United States for years. Top educators in our country recognize the connection between education and sports, placing value on the skill set individuals attain by being a member of a team.

Our connection to athletics spans generations. We play backyard volleyball, soccer, baseball or whatever is popular in the neighborhood, then move on to organized youth sports and continue through high school, testing out multiple sports, using our individual strengths and learning how to work as a TEAM. The love of sports continues through retirement with communities dedicating space to tennis, pickleball, golf and more.

Certainly, we play sports because it’s “fun,” but isn’t there so much more to being part of a team? We learn to compromise, share, sit out when asked and are inspired to grow. We get better at our sport by learning from our peers and our coaches, capitalizing on each other’s strengths and looking forward to the excitement of competing, and potentially, WINNNG. And the only way to win is to strive for perfection in your sport.

Kathy DeBoer, President of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, feels strongly about this: “I agree that participation in youth sports needs to be fun, but I’m also convinced that we don’t become very good at anything if we are only doing it to have ‘fun’.”

Kathy believes the reason so many parents are interested in having their kids engage in sports is because of the unique environment where kids learn so much more. By learning a sport, “…kids are made to feel uncomfortable— they don’t get what they want right away. They have to work at something and be uncomfortable to get good at it. I think most people would say that those are very critical stages to go through and teach children how to go through them. What do I do when I am not succeeding? What do I do when I am not happy? Those are things that sports teaches that are just as important.”

We also use the TEAM concept in the workplace, in our marriages and with our families. Think about it. Are we working together as a team? What is our common goal? Do we value our own skills while appreciating the skills of those around us? This mentality will make the difference between a team that thrives and a team that fails.

Unfortunately, the TEAM has been placed on the chopping block in too many places. Today universities are being forced to extinguish sports that “cost too much” or “don’t generate enough revenue.” If we stand by and watch, will high school and youth sports be the next to go? Should we stand up and save the TEAM? Is it worth saving?

Valuable lessons are taught through being a member of the TEAM:

  • Evaluating our skills in relation to others
  • Learning a new skill from someone who knows the sport
  • Honoring our teammates and their abilities
  • Looking to our coaches for guidance and decisions, trusting they know what is best for the TEAM and following through with the jobs we’re given.

Placing value on history and looking to the future, I worry about the direction we may be heading.

We must Protect the Team.

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Written by: Michelle Anderson