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Work Together

by Charlie Rezikoff

Ultimate is a sport of independent minded players—players who like to self-govern—and in ultimate a wide range of personal investment and work ethic on a given team is common. This creates a difficult situation: the headstrong leader yelling about commitment as the fun loving party-captain rolls his eyes. Forming a single team identity can be daunting. The most important step is to get everyone together doing something other than playing ultimate. Often teams try to define their identity in a team meeting. This is fine—if you want a team whose identity it is to meet and talk about your feelings, but usually these meetings highlight differences more than create unity. Instead, throw a theme party. Go disc golfing. Meet at the local burrito joint after practices. Rent a beach house rather than hotel rooms. Work out together. Twenty-plus guys in the weight room at your university’s gym? Hilarious antics occur, freshmen learn safe weight training from seniors, people get to know each other casually, and your team improves its fitness. That team time will lay the foundation of trust on which you build your identity. 

Strong teams weather disagreement. If two players who dislike each other can coexist, that highlights your team’s unity. Try pairing these two hotheads in a drill that makes them work together. You might be surprised to find how well they do when they share a goal. You may need to have the two talk out their differences. When mediating, always put your team first. Remind them that when teammates argue the team doesn’t win or have fun. But disagreement about team identity is different from refusing to participate in team identity. Some players want the benefits of being on your team (usually playing time) yet undermine team events. The more valuable the player with his cleats on, the more destructive he can be to the team energy. Established teams know that these dissenters must be cut or the team will have a frustrating season. If what he wants does not fit what your team needs, then his departure will reinforce your team identity. If your team thinks you communicated poorly with this player, then his departure will hurt your team. So when cutting such a player, make the cut about team unity. 

One cold rainy April day, the Hodags found themselves playing sloppily against an inferior opponent. Bryan Paradise, the team captain, exploded with anger, threw chairs away from the sideline, forced his teammates to stand, and yelled "now we become men!" Had Bryan tried that stunt in November, it would have backfired; had he waited till May, it would have been too late. Bryan had the social intelligence, or the luck, to challenge his team in the right way at the right time. That season the Hodags won their first championship. Every team needs a charismatic leader to articulate its identity. When you find that leader empower him to speak in your huddle. He will remind your team why they love playing ultimate. 

huddle issue032

Thu March 31st, 2011

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by Tully Beatty

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by John Korber

Nurture What You Like, Overcome What You Don't
by Peri Kurshan

Team Identity
by Ali Lenon

Self-Sustaining Team Culture
by Matt Mackey

Key Team Culture Moments
by John Sandahl

Work Together
by Charlie Reznikoff

It Will Change Every Season
by Miranda Roth




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