This past weekend I chaperoned my son’s high school Senior Class Retreat, sponsored by the high school’s Leadership Development Program (yes, we are very fortunate to be in a district that considers “leadership” important enough to have its own coordinator!). 250-ish 17 & 18 year olds, at a campground, all weekend, in the rain – ha! Bonding, laughing, getting wet, tears of joy, tears of youthful emotion, fun, frustration, aha’s, and lots of teamwork & leadership lessons.
One of our activities was tug-of-war on the beach. I had given my two student-leaders a heads up that I had a special, no-fail strategy for winning tug-of-war…kind of a brains-over-brawn sort of thing. My really-not-so-strong team from my daughter’s senior class three year prior used the same strategy and took second place out of 15 teams! Here it is…all team members are in sync – pulling on a “PULL-2-3” rhythm, at the same time – releasing and repositioning, at the same time. Fail safe swaying in unison. Major might!
Team rhythm doesn’t happen right away (LESSON #1), it takes focus, time, and a team effort. The student leader, thinking we would turn-it-around instantaneously, panicked when we didn’t, and shouted “everyone just pull, forget the chant”. Almost instantly, we could feel the rope slip through our hands. Defeat was imminent. Strategy is a commitment (LESSON #2), and usually takes more than 5 seconds to prove itself out. Needless to say we lost. We dropped the rope and one of our teammates shook his head and said very matter-of-factly, “Well, we just didn’t work together as a team!” (as if…”duh, there ya go!”). Yes, exactly. We didn’t work together as a team and we lost. That’s what happens. Teamwork means everyone pulls together, at the same time, in the same direction (LESSON #3). Knocked out of the running, we dejectedly watched the tug-of-war playoffs until it was down to the final two. One team was clearly going to win…after-all they had Mr.-Star-Football-Player-Strong-As-An-Ox guy as their anchor! And then, as if they had been in our huddle, Team Not-So-Strong-Underdogs started chanting “1-2-3-PULL…1-2-3-PULL”!! They found their rhythm! They worked as a team! They grunted, pulled, grunted some more, and chanted their team to a major upset! STRATEGY over Tactical…wins every time (LESSON #4).