I’m a pretty big fan of team sports. From the time I was little I always seemed to be drawn towards things like basketball, baseball, football and soccer. The team dynamic is the common thread between these various sports – beyond that each of them is pretty different.
In football when you have the ball in your hand you can run with it. In basketball you can’t run with the ball in your hand, you can only dribble it with your hand. Soccer – don’t even think about touching the ball with your hand. Baseball? You can touch the ball – but generally you use a bat and gloves to interact with the ball.
The rules and standards of each can vary in great part, but there is one thing that is uniform across all of these sports. In each sport the players wear a jersey that displays the team name on the front and the unique players name on the back.
Why would one of these major sports not break from the pack and be more distinctive? Is there a good reason that each sport would follow that same pattern of “team name on front, player name on back?”
The layout of a jersey is more than a fashion choice; it is a statement about team unity and priorities. It declares,
Now your team might not be a sports team. It could be a volunteer team at your church, or a department team within your company. Perhaps you belong to a sales team, or a school committee. The jersey layout teaches us about much more than sports; it is tangible expression of how you strive for unity and effectiveness on a team.
Generally we all start out with the right mindset. We join a team out of a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We put on the jersey because we want to contribute and be involved with something great. In the beginning we are proud to wear the team logo on the front…and having our name on our back is almost a bonus.
Over time it is easy for something to shift within us. Subtly a shift occurs where we begin magnifying our personal contribution to the team. Somehow the hard work of others begins to appear smaller. Suddenly we internally take a little too much credit for every win – and quickly notice when our teammates drop the ball. Before you know it you start to focus on you and your success instead of looking for a team win. Focus on making your team great instead of making your name great. (Click to tweet)
In those moments where we are sliding into what I would call “self-deception” it is helpful for us to pause and “look down” at our jersey. Let the layout of our jersey, the embroidery on our shirt or the logo on our name tag remind us that we are first and foremost a part of a team. Whether we are trying to conquer ambition, jealousy, frustration or any other number of emotions we would be well served to pause and re-declare to ourselves, “The team I am a part of is more important than my part on the team.”