This article appears in Skyd Magazine Vol. 1, Issue 1 – now available on Amazon.
“We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” C. S. Lewis
At the start of the season exists an opportunity to put your best foot forward, regardless of if you are a new player or a seasoned veteran. The prospect of being the best version of yourself for your team and for your sanity is a warm and welcome thought, especially for a leader of a team.
My Heist co-captain Rose Glinka and I had posted tryout information for Heist’s upcoming 2015 season. I left my house on the following morning at 5:00 am and proceeded to spend two straight days in a car driving around rural northern Wisconsin for work. It did not matter how many meetings I attended, remote project sites I visited or how many breathtaking views of Lake Superior caught my eye; my thoughts constantly wandered to the upcoming season with Heist.
Who will sign up for tryouts? Who will show up? Will everyone buy in? Am I working hard enough to prepare for the season without reinjuring my foot? Am I modeling the type of behavior I want my team to demonstrate? Will I do a good job as a leader? Will we cultivate a successful team culture that works for Heist 2015?
My mind fixated on that last question for most of my ultimate-related thoughts.
In 2013, we had an extremely talented roster, but our leadership failed the team. As one of those leaders, it is really hard admitting that in a very public forum. We simply did not succeed in cultivating a team identity that reflected the rostered individuals while we navigated the inaugural Triple Crown Tour. Rather, we introduced too many new strategies while trying to maintain the same team identity that we had in 2012. This was the main factor that led to a disappointing finish to the 2013 season and a huge personal mental collapse. I retreated to a state of mental exhaustion and shroud of anger towards myself: I had let my teammates down.
I was shocked to be elected as a captain in 2014. Shocked, but thrilled. I knew I had unfinished business and improvements to make for my team. In 2012 and 2013, the leadership focused largely on making a team that was nationals-caliber for more than one season, and not the long-term vision we had discussed. Our vision was to create a program that drew talented women with an awareness and desire to grow the program beyond any one particular season. Implementing a long-term vision requires a different mindset as a leader.
At the beginning of the 2014 season, a team had yet to really achieve this vision in the women’s division in Madison. We wanted to be that team. 2014 was all about reinvention in order to survive and to encourage growth in the future. This meant working with everyone involved to foster an inclusive, authentic team identity that grew every year to reflect all the players, coaches, leaders, and practice players on the team.
The path towards reinvention began the first weekend of June 2014. Our facilitator walked us through puzzles, challenges, and silly activities with the intent of opening a dialog about difficult situations teams face on and off the field. As a leader, the biggest lesson I took away from our session was ask for what you need. One of my biggest weaknesses as a leader (especially in the 2013 season) was my uneasy feeling about asking for help and trying to get everything done. By actually delegating, providing clear instructions, and asking for help from my teammates, I could lessen my stress level and focus more attention towards on-field strategies and team health. Plus, it allowed my teammates to have a greater vested interest in the program and created enduring ties to the team.
We had committed to all the ideas we discussed and really bought in to our team. I like to think that everyone had at least one big lesson they took to heart and carried with them, whether it was a commitment to focusing their energy toward team improvement or becoming more vocal as a teammate. Although our placement at Nationals did not necessarily improve a ton, we had succeeded in reinventing ourselves and started building some momentum into the 2015 season.
It comes back to my meeting with Rose regarding the 2015 season. As a leader, I can’t help but feel anxious and excited, like I could explode. I shared my anxiety about the upcoming 2015 season with Rose the day after our meeting. She reassured me with a simple text: “It’s a reinvention every year! New year, new team!”