Thursday, March 12, 2009


While I was watching some high school students play volleyball last week, I noticed that they were having the most difficulty calling out to each other who had the ball. Some would look up in anticipation rather than around to see who was there to help. They acted as if they thought the game was entirely up to them, while others assumed one of their teammates would handle the situation so they stood there waiting. Those who had the best teamwork, and calling out who had the ball, were the winners sometimes even regardless of talent levels. Luckily for me, I've had a great group to work with during these last two weeks, so we were able to pull off our career speaker event for all of the students. Last Tuesday, however, even some from my "team-at-large" stepped into last-minute action.

I realized Monday night at 9:00 p.m., while double-checking with the dancer coming to speak, that I had scheduled her and the attorney's presentations using the same LCD projector at the same time in different rooms. Our department only owns one projector. I tried to see if one of them might be able to speak without using their visual aids, but that hardly seemed fair after they both spent time preparing. Of course, I couldn't sleep that night as my brain worked over this dilemma like a math puzzle. I tried to think of people from whom I could borrow at work, even around the neighborhood. I was very upset with myself at this oversight. The next morning, as soon as I walked into my office I called two technology people and left messages to see if they knew of any extra equipment. As the start time for our presentation approached I had given up the idea of having two projectors, and one of the speakers would have to go without. It was then that the drama teacher offered one she had tucked away in a closet. Then, as the ballerina and the attorney both arrived, they informed me that each had brought their own projector just in case we needed it. They both wondered why I laughed so joyously at the sight of their LCDs. Minutes after the speakers' good news, the two IT people I had contacted earlier were on the phone asking how they could help. The problem was solved.

Sometimes we need to consciously remind ourselves that we are not alone. Monday night, I felt very isolated in my angst, beating myself up over a simple mistake. I had to force myself to go to bed with no closure. By Tuesday morning, the projector issue was no longer apparent simply because of five conscientious people (count them: 1 teacher, 1 ballerina, 1 attorney, and 2 IT experts). In the broader sense of the word "team," anyone involved in a collaborative effort can make a difference if they care, and if we are willing to ask them for help. There is no guarantee they'll say "yes," or that they will have what we're hoping for (ex: a random LCD projector lying around), but it's important to recognize the potential impact of others when we work together.

It has taken me a lifetime to learn to accept my many weaknesses and ask for help when needed. I had no idea what I was missing by not enlisting help from others on the team. As I watched the teenagers play volleyball again today, I felt sorry for the players who were running around the court trying to bump, set, and spike alone. It was more fun for those who had figured out the game and knew when to call the ball, when to ask for help, and when to save a score. I'm not sure who gets the credit for saving our PowerPoint presentations the other day; I suppose I owe thanks to the entire team for simply being aware of the game going on around them and recognizing a need.

Three Elements of Teamwork for Volleyball, PowerPoint Presentations, and Life
  • Unselfishness: putting others above one's self, generous (ex: letting the other person have the ball, thinking what the other person might need)
  • Dedication: wholehearted devotion (ex: being in the game, staying engaged)
  • Awareness: vigilance, attentiveness (ex: watching out for other player's needs, offering assistance)

1 comment:

Cheryl Mahoney said...

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