Updated: Oct 26
This week we will drop our third and youngest daughter off for her freshman year of college. I’m struggling with the idea that my baby is 18 years old… but I know that she is ready for the independence and accountability that college will allow. I also know that she is not heading off alone – she has the voices of her parents and her older sisters to guide her (and friends from high school and camp to greet her on campus).
I remember, even though it was a long time ago, the mixture of anxiety and joy I felt at being alone at college for the first time. To my surprise I found that even in the dorms I could actually BE alone. To me it felt like a quiet I had never before experienced; as the eldest of four siblings I rarely experienced the option of not participating in the noise of home. In my dorm room, especially since my roommate was a quiet engineering major, I could choose to tune out the noise. Suddenly I was free to decide which pieces of the excitement I wanted to claim as my own.
Being alone was never the goal. I found Stacey on day one (we still laugh about the “Philadelphia And You” bus tour that cemented our friendship) and soon after was balancing classwork with managing the Men’s JV soccer team. I found my team literally then … but the pattern of surrounding myself with people with different strengths and outlooks is one I have repeated throughout my career (and life I suppose).
Looking back at my college experience I can see how, without ever being an athlete myself (!) I sought out team experiences. Sometimes it required a gentle shove from those who knew me better. In the winter of 1985, I could not imagine myself as a sorority girl – and when I walked into the first recruitment meeting and saw a blonde girl with whales embroidered on her pants, I felt certain that I was in the wrong place. Last year, Robin and I laughed together at my reaction to her chosen outfit as we reminisced about the three years that we worked together to build a nationally chartered sorority on a campus that was decidedly un-Greek. While our different style sense (and all that I thought it represented) was a barrier at first… I got over it and found that her Southern charm was just the wrapper on great listening and leadership skills that turned out to be superpowers that I needed by my side.
My team managing experience was a chance to see up close (as close as I wanted to get) that each player on a soccer team has a role/position to play. The Defenders or Backs are the individuals tasked with protecting the goalie, blocking shots and stopping the other team’s offensive players from passing, receiving, shooting and scoring. The Striker stands near the goal and must quickly respond to passed balls under constant pressure from the other team’s defense. Each player brings their skills to the field, serving in their assigned role while understanding the job of the other members on the team. No one player is more or less critical to success. And once in a while there’s an opportunity for a breakthrough play – and a defensive player gets to score a goal. Or, as we saw in this week’s Olympic play, a game decision will be made by penalty kicks and a specific skill set is needed in a decisive moment.
At Team Kat & Mouse we are making it easier to bring a teamwork philosophy to fund development work using some of the same coaching philosophies seen in athletics.
1. Everyone is a member of the team – even injured players (Board members who say that they “aren’t good at fundraising”) come to practices and cheer on the other players. Program staff has a role to play too, and they will step up if they are given tools and coached in skills.
2. Everyone knows the basics – team skill drills are for everyone, even the highly specialized goalie.
3. Know when to call on the expert– sometimes an outside professional or the specialist on your team is the best fit for an ask. Don’t be afraid to pass the ball and cheer on your teammate!
4. Media plays an important role. The sports world has learned to harness media to establish loyalty, for engagement, and news sharing. Don’t be afraid to have others do your storytelling.
5. Leverage the fans in the stands! Bring them onto the field now and then to celebrate the big wins with you!
To my daughter Hillary – good luck finding your team and learning what you are “very best at.” I’ll be waiting to hear about it and all of the other adventures that await you.
To learn more about mobilizing your team around the tactics and teamwork that might work for your organization – reach out to us at www.teamkatandmouse.com.
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