Team Building Exercise '99!...'13...


Once again I'm faced with a question that I have figured out for the abstract future, but have no clue about in the real now.

This installment is about building a team, and all I can think of are excuses for why I can’t. 

Since the challenge started talking about hiring people the thought was that since I'm not really making any money off of this yet, I can’t afford to hire anyone else. Also anything I do make is slated towards programming the new site... so, that was the first thought, I can't afford a team. 

I can't really afford not to have one either. 

When I stopped and realized that the challenge was to build a team, not necessarily to hire one, I had a workaround for that particular mental block and I started to wonder what positions there even were.

That’s how my brain seems to operate first... in sporting terms.

I built my first sports team recently for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. It was my first time captaining a team. I got the gig mainly by being the guy who started putting a team together first, but I quickly loved having the role, other people seemed happy with me in the role and so I ran with it.  

At first I went in casually just talking to friends and avoiding people I knew were being drafted by the local "all star" team that was entering in the A bracket. I did this out of respect for the people I knew who were organizing that team, but learned later that it was just me being overly nice. 

There were three brackets divided by experience and skill and I was putting a team together for the B bracket, right in the middle. I was going to the tournament to play hard and have fun so this seemed like where the team should be placed to strike that balance. 

I left those “A level” players alone because I felt that they’d want to play at the top level if they had the chance and again, I thought that the people putting together that team would be angry if I poached “their players”. I thought all of this without actually asking any of them. 

I learned a lot through the process of building the team, not the least of which was that this concern of mine was pointless and silly. I didn’t really understand the format of the tournament going in, but how it worked was that the top teams in each bracket had a chance of moving up while the bottom teams were moved down. 

We ended up playing against this “all star” team and they beat us in Universe Point. Ironically it was one of the players I didn’t take, to not step on anyone’s toes, who scored the last point of the game against us.

Regardless, the team I had was awesome. I immediately targeted the players who I thought would be fun but who could also play. What was amazing was that this “fun team” started to be filled up by really good players, really good. Two ex-captains of mine joined, as well as some ridiculous athletes. Some players who had “A level skill” but just bought into the philosophy I was setting down for the team jumped in when asked. 

There was another trend too... we were a TALL team, the men anyway. It wasn’t like I’d had a height requirement, but it was something people noticed as soon as we stepped on the field. This is even after one of our handlers who is 6’5” dropped out before the tournament. 

The size of the males on our team did lead me to coming up with the name for the team. I felt that something super-heroically-themed and so the Just-Disc League was born. 
All characters shown are the property of DC comics, I don't own the rights to their images, I just love them... don't sue me!

Because of a video interview I’d done talking with Spencer Wilkerson, the captain of the team that won the last championship in the league I play in, about team building and observing and interviewing Dave Smart for two years, I had some ideas that I wanted to implement with this team. 

First of all, I knew that I didn’t want it to be “my” team with other people on it. I had no illusions about what was going on with the team. I’d drafted strongly and I was the least talented male player on the team. 

What I wanted to do was to create a situation where each person felt ownership of the team and found their self expression there. I had leaders and I had jokers and I had people of solid, but quiet character. It was a good mix and I saw that my only job was to provide a framework for them to shine. 

At a pre-tournament team dinner attended by all but one of the team members (she’d had to catch a later flight to the Island where the tournament was being held)  I set up a situation where I laid out my vision for the team and gave everyone the choice to buy into it or to suggest another direction. 

Since my vision was to primarily have fun while respecting the game and play “Just-Disc League Ultimate”, it wasn’t a hard sell and everyone at the table ended up saying a few words about why they thought this was the best direction to head in. 

With 100% buy in, the table was set for an epic weekend. We didn’t win every game but we competed and challenged some top level teams who had been built to win the tournament. 

Also because of the framework we’d built together, we had a great time and made sure that our opponents did too. Players on our team came up with “spirit games” and other activities that ended up winning us the “Spirit Award” which had secretly been my goal from the start. 

I was over the moon. 

Now... This was easy in my mind because people had already wanted to play in this tournament. All I was doing was creating an attractive framework, or team, for them to do this inside of. When it comes to Life Athletics, and as previously stated, I’ve been able to see how that worked in the future, but right now? Not so much. I’m missing the understanding of what’s in it for someone else, and if I don’t see it, ow could anyone else?

I’d actually been thinking of this for a while and I even started by writing “Life Athletics Team” on one of the 5 white boards I have around my computer. I did this months ago and the only name I put on it was mine. I wasn’t even able to think of a title for me and so roles for other people never became clear. 

People help me by editing and I’ve had contributors but it’s always just been “my thing” that they’re helping with. I’d love for this to not be the case. In my grand vision for Life Athletics my role will diminish greatly and others will find their self expression through sharing their training programs and experiences developing themselves in various areas of life and I’ll just have provided the framework. Once again, going from here to there is an unlit path in my mind. 

The blog challenge question is really “How will you build a team around your vision and work smart instead of hard?”

What I see is that, just like with the Just-Disc League, a vision is really the place to start, a vision that includes a space for others tomorrow and not just down the road.