Rebuilding an Attitude
Those of you who know me know that I’m an avid follower of a number of sports, and a big fan of my daughters as they’ve played volleyball and softball over the years. There’s a lesson one team learned recently that we can all take and apply individually–or to a work team, if we have one.
In simplest terms, the high school my daughters have attended is part of a Division I athletic conference with nine other schools—all but one significantly larger than theirs. Some of our sports teams recently have achieved statewide success; others have been in a rebuilding process for at least the past several years, yet to make their mark. Our softball team was—until this year—in the latter category. They have had good coaches and talented players, but the team never truly believed it was capable of competing against some of the perennially successful teams in our conference (we usually have the highest percentage of state-ranked teams of any conference in our state).
We gained a new coach this year. She had demonstrated experience of turning around a college team that now has a strong reputation. She wanted to teach high school again, and inherited our softball team. She spent hours in the fall and winter taking care of the softball field (she personally plowed heavy snow off the field weeks before the season was going to start). Our field is now probably the best drained, weed-free and well-surfaced softball field in our area.
Along with making the most of the home venue, pride was instilled and a cultural shift began. My younger daughter is a junior on the team and experienced the transformation firsthand. All of the girls are good players—there wasn’t a big change in the talent level. However, the attitude turned around. They began playing non-conference teams that were among the best in the state to get experience winning against types of teams that they’d never thought they could beat in the past. Every girl on the team had a role—these roles may have changed over the season, but they knew what the rest of the team expected of them and began to really talk about the team over themselves. With all of this, a team that had five wins last year earned 16 wins this year. They placed third in our conference, and won our regional championship for the first time in more than 30 years.
As one of our two seniors put it, “We’re not a doormat anymore and we can compete with any team that’s out there.”
Every day, we run across opportunities we don’t go after because we don’t think we’ll win them. There is competition everywhere we sometimes think will "win" and get the program, or the opportunity simply to be noticed. Instead of assuming we don’t stand a chance, perhaps stepping back and understanding what we can change to compete is the key. Individually, we can get caught in the trap of doubting ourselves and wondering if we’re really good enough. If your competition underestimates you, the element of surprise can be huge. If your competition respects you, you already have made that shift and have the momentum in your favor. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”