Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stand up Australia. Be proud (It's not what you think!)

As the sun sets on Tollcross Swimming Centre we can learn some valuable lessons from the Aussie swim team in Glasgow and how the team has transformed its culture to produce the most wonderful esprit de corps and exemplify the best flow-on effect of shared goals, great strategy and sublime teamwork- outstanding results.

If we think back to the last Olympics, only two years ago, team members were individualistic and arrogant. There was a pronounced lack of discipline and that extended to poor choices around curfews and the use of social media.

This is what I've seen two years later. In post-swim interviews the commitment to a shared purpose was palpable. Swimmers who were pitted against each other in heats and finals were absolutely committed to doing their best whilst never forgetting they were part of a team (think the Campbell sisters). Swimmers were comfortable to say they were really pleased with their performances without a hint of arrogance. In the case of Christian Sprenger, rather than the game playing and cloak and dagger that can take place around injuries in the AFL ("hamstring soreness" is a euphemism for anything but), he was open and transparent about his shoulder injury and the pain he endured with not a shred of self-pity or excuse.

What was quaint but symbolic of egalitarianism was the team nomenclature as they described their team mates and events. The "girls" spoke of their excitement when a "boy" did well. The "boys" would say how proud they were of the "girls" in the relay. In too many previous major meets, women, by reference, have been relegated to adolescence whilst the men strutted.  Even Channel Ten commentators this time round were far more egalitarian and respectful in their approach to both genders and I am positive this was a very deliberate reflection of an ethos (followed up with media training) that displayed an intentional shift in maturity and respect for all who competed. Having the para-sport events intermingled with the others was again symbolic and long overdue but so important.

If we're being honest, outcomes trump effort these days (do well vs. try hard is all that matters when landing a plane), but there is something inspirational about seeing members of a team "leave nothing in the pool" whilst remembering it's a whole bunch of people who got them there. Stand up Australia. Be proud. Not just of the medals - but of the culture and the cohesion.