The Ultimate Team Building Exercise
Athletics is a small scale representation of life. There are valuable lessons to learn in the areas of accountability, responsibility, communication, perseverance, confidence, leadership, teamwork, and a dozen other characteristics that apply not only to sport, but also to daily life. The beauty of athletics is that when it comes to these lessons, it is a lot like school. You can attend class (practice, games, tournaments), then return home to your everyday routine and take a few moments to digest what you have learned. Team building exercises attempt to teach these lessons in a more focused way by demonstrating how skills like those listed above are important to team dynamics. Following each exercise, there is a debrief that is intended to shed more light on what the most important aspects of the exercise were. These are all great learning experiences provided by an athletic career. The importance of these lessons becomes alarmingly clear when you are put in a serious situation outside of sports, without a referee or a moderator, or the comfort of knowing you can simply end practice and return to your daily life. This is the situation the people of Dexter, MI have found themselves recently.
On March 15th, a category EF3 tornado touched down in Dexter, tearing apart several neighborhoods, leveling some homes and damaging many. Hundreds of trees were uprooted and laid over roads, blocking access to a few of the hardest hit areas. The trees that are still standing are littered with home insulation and shingles. Most windows were blown out, garages destroyed, and the contents of people’s homes were strewn throughout the area. Amazingly, there were no serious injuries reported as a result of the storm. Minutes after the storm moved on, the residents of Dexter, acting as one team, began what is literally a community-wide, real life team building exercise.
Immediately, the importance of communication becomes clear as people contact family and friends to make sure they were not hurt. Leadership and followership emerge as residents organize and begin the clean-up process. Leadership is a significant skill in organizing groups and prioritizing tasks, and followership is essential for the action of cleaning up. Teamwork is seen as an entire community comes together to help neighbors and friends return Dexter to the condition it was in before the storm, and perseverance will be seen in the future as citizens recover from the initial shock of the damage, and push through what is sure to be a lengthy clean-up process.
It is an amazing thing to see a community like Dexter in action. Residents of the town and the surrounding areas band together to create a cohesive team intent on rebuilding the town. Athletes, pay attention to the lessons you are learning with your teams. Each time you enter a competition, you bring a band of individuals together with the intention of completing a certain goal. While your goals are not the same as those of the Dexter community, the process is similar. Communication, perseverance, leadership and action are all essential skills in reaching your goals. Do not underestimate the value of learning these lessons in the controlled environment of sport so when a real world application presents itself, you as an athlete are more equipped to be a positive influence and a leader for your team. Ultimately, when the storm has passed and the debris has been cleared, the Dexter community will be stronger than ever before. Witnessing a team like this working together, each individual contributing in his/her own special way, brings a new respect for each member of the team and a stronger group in the end. Damage and losses aside, an event like the one in Dexter can in many ways be the ultimate team building exercise.