How to WIN Olympic Team Gold
Watching the Rio Olympic games has been downright fun. Michael Phelps stunning 5 gold medals, newbie Simone Biles 3 gold medals, and Katie Ledecky‘s 4 take no prisoner gold medals (including her astounding 800m freestyle) demonstrates the spirit of the Olympics – excellence, hope, and possibility.
Although the Olympics is about individual performance, it’s the teamwork that’s stood out most. Rooting for teams to win has never been so enjoyable. It’s clear when USA’s gymnastics team won gold in Rio, not only did they look so happy, the gleeful joy of simply being on a team together was palpable. Even in the old classic photo of biting your gold medal, the young women looked cheeky. You would too if you won the gold, and still, this was much more than that, it was playful fun.
Who doesn’t want a gold medal team? That’s enough to get anyone cheeky, and there are foundational secrets to creating your gold medal team:
- Be each other’s “battery player”
When asked about the foundation of the women’s basketball’s team stamina, Maya Moore said, “We always try to be each other’s battery player”. A team is nuanced. Where one runs out of steam the other takes over. When done well it’s a natural and elegant hand off. As the men swam the 4×100, you could see how each player, moved the level of performance higher and gave each other a bit more of a lead to capture the gold. Develop your team to be elegant battery players where the handoffs are seamless. You know where each other’s limits lie and are unphased to pick up the slack and move your team to victory.
- Your agility is more than your physicality
As the “Final Five” (USA’s women’s gymnastics team) performed it seemed as if their own torso’s didn’t impede their agility. As a reporter from The Telegraph said about Simone Biles, “Her frame seems to take off on its own accord, as if answering an order from her brain not to be held back by physiology’s laws.” The relentless practice and pursuit of excellence creates greater levels of agility. Not giving into perceived limitations allows a team to be boundless even in times of fierce change.
- Seek excellence, NOT perfection
People perform at different levels, even if they all run through the same drills at the same time. It’s the harmony of synchronicity of each person working in unison with each other that creates a seemingly level of perfection to the outside world. When the USA men’s swimming team won the gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay, each person showcased different speeds and performance. And in the end the joint effort by gold medalist Ryan Murphy, bronze medalist Cody Miller, bronze medalist Nathan Adrian and gold medalist Michael Phelps, clocked an Olympic record. Even Murphy took an early and world record setting lead for the USA. While the US was competing against other countries, the ones they were really competing against was themselves – consistently redefining what excellence means for them and in turn showing the world.
- A vision for what’s possible even when it doesn’t seem likely
Martha Karolyi, the U.S. women’s national gymnastics team coordinator, and her husband had a simple vision – build a U.S. gymnastics program that would have as much (if not more) groundbreaking success than when they helped Nadia Comaneci reach her gold medal status in the 1976 games. They defected from Romania in 1981 and realized that dream several times over. Martha has helped realize 88 world championship and Olympic medals – that was before Rio. What worked? By setting what seemed like an impossible vision and having laser focus, she has achieved the impossible. Not only has she created unprecedented success, she transcended the notion of individuality – I’m here to win for me – to team unity – I’m here to win for us. Simone Biles demonstrated when she won her individual gold medal in the women’s all-around and Aly Raisman won the silver, Biles motioned for Raisman to join her on stage. Vision realized.
- Get Up. We Have to Finish This
Unity can come from all sorts of places, not just among your team – among people simply playing the same game, looking to achieve personal heights. During the qualifying heat of the women’s 5,000 meters New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin had a hefty fall and surely her dream of an Olympic medal was gone. Someone said, Get up. We have to finish this”. According to The New York Times, Abbey D’Agostino, an American, clipped Hamblin from behind and took a fall with 2,000 meters to go. Hamblin fell on her shoulder and D’Agostino didn’t move. Instead of thinking of herself first, D’Agostino helped Hamblin up and appealed to Hamblin not to quit.
Teamwork extends beyond your immediate team. It’s to the people you pass in the hallway, the ones you barely know or have never even met. Those moments when you reach out to simply help another is true teamwork. Hamblin said, “When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that’s my story…That girl shaking my shoulder saying ‘come on, get up’.”
Embody a new definition of teamwork – doing good for good. As a result, you too will be transformed.