Friday, July 20, 2012

No I in T.E.A.M.

Watching Le Tour late last night I was staggered by the willingness of Chris Froome, one of the Sky team members and current race leader Bradley Wiggins' team mate, to forfeit a certain opportunity to win Stage 17. For those of us who aren't Tour de France experts, Froome would, according to the 'voice of cycling' commentator Phil Liggett, have certainly caught Alejandro Valverde from Spain who ultimately went on to win that stage but for Froome's disciplined and slavish desire to stick with the team rules and protect and assist his team captain Wiggins.
Wiggins seems destined to ride into Paris on Sunday as the race winner barring contracting Cadel's parasite bug or being run over by a media car (which has happened before). This is in no small part due to the extraordinary performance of the Sky team in protecting him from misadventure through the various stages, setting pace and allowing him to ride in their slipstreams and conserve energy until needed (you've just witnessed the extent of my knowledge about team cycling).  
Call me simple but I tend to draw inspiration about what works well and what doesn't by looking at teams that are spectacularly successful and asking what might account for it. Time after time commentators interview the player of the match after the event or match and ask them about their performance. Invariably these superstars talk about the outstanding performance of the rest of the team, the quality bowling or passing or riding (depending on the sport), the inspirational efforts of the young contributors, and basically everything other than themselves. This is not false modesty but the blinding reality of their understanding that they can't and don't do it alone.
That is not to say these high achievers aren't suitably high on self-belief but they don't allow themselves to believe they are bigger than the team. There may still be reverence, not jealousy for the superstar player who turns up to training first, leaves last and delivers week after week. If others compete with them it is to emulate them, not to beat them.
But where arrogance meets lack of discipline and an accompanying decline in performance, retribution is often swift and brutal. Just ask Jason Ackermanis or should I say Jason Who?

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