The year was 1962.
I had spent two years learning to play inside linebacker and offensive guard at Georgia Tech. I was on the second team in a two-team system. Playing both ways, we shared the playing time equally. Ahead of me was Rufus Guthrie a consensus preseason All-American. That's me in the photo above, front left, #69.
The first team was filled with future pro prospects, seven of whom eventually were drafted to play professionally. The second team was a cast of no-names known as “Big Blue.” In our first game of the season many second-team players were graded ahead of their first-team counterparts. While the first team was certainly more talented, the second team played together, trusted each other, and we were incredibly close.
The season was somewhat of a disappointment. We ended up 7-3-1, losing to Missouri in the Blue Bonnet Bowl in Houston, Texas. The next year I started on the first team and my experience paled in comparison to the year I played on Big Blue.
For years after my career was over, I attributed my dissatisfaction to playing on Big White, the first team, to them… the coaches, the players and the FCA. Georgia Tech was the first school in the Southeastern Conference to have a representative of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes on staff. His presence split our team down the middle. We had the Christians on one side and the beer drinkers on the other. I was the co-captain of the beer drinkers. Not that I was a big drinker. Hardly. I just didn’t like being told what to believe and how to act.
As the years went by and I went deeper into learning how to “be team,” my story started to unfold. First, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. During my very first session in therapy, Dr. Rene Tillich told me I had two choices – take prescribed medication or simply learn how to breathe. “Knowing what I know about you so far, you will opt for the breathing,” he surmised.
Rene was right, and so began my serious practice with breathing. I also began to read humanistic literature on learning how to be present. That combination helped me and continues to do so.
Then, in 1990, I learned to administer the Myers–Briggs personality inventory. My profile helped identify that I have a tendency to not like expectations. Being on the first team at Georgia Tech, I was expected to excel. As a result, I put an inordinate amount of pressure on myself, which made me feel and play tight. That sure wasn’t fun.
In retrospect, my dissatisfaction with being on the first team was more about me than my teammates, coaches or the FCA. As I have learned more about helping people “decide to be team” I have become more of the person I needed to be when I was 19 years old. I also have become keenly aware that I thrive on the feelings of support and cooperation. The feelings that allowed me to play so well on Big Blue are the feelings that have stayed with me all these years. These feelings have been my source of inspiration to work with teams (sports, business and families) and help them create the same level of satisfaction, success and fun.
Team in its purest sense is about caring for each other, about learning to cooperate and communicate to resolve differences and possible issues. It is about taking enormous pride in doing your job well because you don’t want to let each other down.
Together we can create that same level of TEAM for you and your players, employees or family members. If we work together and support each other, everyone who is important to you will decide to “be team.” That value can last a lifetime and cannot ever be overstated.