Building Team: The chicken or the egg edition

Track & Field is a team sport. With that said, I do understand why some people either choose or are forced by circumstance to view it as an individual sport.  But as far as Williams T&F is concerned – it is a Team sport. With that said, the inherent nature of my sport allows for more flexibility with training, schedules, etc than other team sports. Personally, I see this as one reason it is an ideal sport for a school like Williams.

In my opinion, sports are not “individual vs team” sports. Rather, they either have X’s and O’s or they don’t. Teams that need to implement game plans or where one athlete’s positioning/timing can have a domino effect on another athlete, it is critical to have 100% attendance at practice at the same time. (Side note: XC fits into this category. Learning to run as a group and not a collection of individuals cannot be overstated.)

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However, track & field is not one of these sports. We are spread across the campus, the city, or even the globe. Our throwers aren’t on the roads with our 10k runners. Our jumpers aren’t running intervals with our mid D crew. Athletes often struggle and strive, silo’d in their individual event group, honing their craft.

But within that silo, they battle for the betterment of the team. They do so with blind trust in their teammates. Having faith that, although they do not personally see the tempo runs or the sets of squats or the bounding, their teammates are doing exactly what they need to do to make the TEAM stronger.

And so, when life occurs – in the completely individualized and unique way that it does – I, and my sport, can adjust. The entity that is the “team” can understand and adapt to accommodate for the individual. This actually happens with minimal sacrifice to the whole.  Workouts can be modified or moved. Intensities and volumes can be amended.

The stress of life ebbs and flows. And it does so with the randomness of a coin toss. However, I write my workout progressions in a vacuum. I do so with relative ignorance to the twists and turns that lie ahead. Therefore, it is critical that I adjust my original plans daily in order to make the progression fit the person, not the person fit the progression. Any coach or team that attempts to “cram a square peg into a round hole” is truly setting themselves up for failure.

In fact, when an individual in the midst of struggle and strife feels supported and valued by the greater whole, they will typically redouble their commitment once their temporary battle has been endured. They will stand steadfast, shoulder to shoulder, when a fellow teammate’s time of need arises. They will have elevated empathy, compassion, and pain-tolerance knowing that the support of the many is always there to prop them up in their time of need

And so, it is not the act of forced self-sacrifice that creates the essence of team. It is in fact the opposite. The nucleus of a team is found in the flexibility and understanding of the masses. It creates the hard-packed core that snowballs into an enormous, unstoppable force.

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