My name is Kirsten Voege. I spent 20+ years in the corporate world in NYC. It makes me especially happy to say that during my advertising agency career I have accomplished many wins. But everyone knows, winning isn’t everything. And no, it’s not the only thing either. Winning is great. But, you know what I think is just as good as winning? Teamwork. Teamwork is the best. I love being part of a great team.
In my opinion, teamwork is just as good as winning. Yep, teamwork.
My first team sport I played was soccer. This was an early team I played on, our team was called the Condors. I’m the tallest one with hair in a center part. I learned a lot about teamwork with the girls on the Condors.
Team player since eight years old. How’s that for teamwork?
When I think about it. I have been a team player since very early on in my life. The first team I was ever on was a youth soccer team during elementary school. When I was in 3rd grade my family moved. It was then that I became a part of the town swim team. The summer swim team was the ultimate team. My town swim team was co-ed and included kids from ages four – five up through eighteen. There were ribbons given out for swimmers who came in 1st through 3rd place. In addition, based on the individual finishes there were overall team scores that were calculated. There was incentive for each swimmer to swim their fastest, but also we wanted everyone to do well so our team would win the swim meet.
Really, you want me to get up early to dive into a cold pool covered in fog and swim back and forth?
In the beginning the swim team was a pretty foreign experience. I was a rising 4th grader. I never swam laps before. Up until then I had only ever gone swimming in the ocean or the bay. I had no idea how to swim laps and do flip-turns. I had to learn. There were lots of practices. First off, practice was held at 7:30 am every day of the week during the summer. Most of the age 10 and under swimmers had been on the team and swimming since kindergarten or age 5. They had been swimming laps, for speed, for 5 years. I was just starting out swimming laps.
As a fourth grader, I was also just learning all the different swimming strokes. I knew the crawl stroke because I took swimming lessons at my old pool. But on the swim team everyone called it freestyle. Breaststroke. Back. Butterfly. I had to learn them all! I never dove off a starting block. As a newbie, I had to learn the strokes, starts and all the rules for coming into the wall and how to do flip turns. Needless to say, I really wasn’t the fastest swimmer in my 10 and under races. In addition to freestyle, the coach put me in for backstroke races. But, I loved being on the swim team! It was fun.
Gimme a K, gimme an A, gimme a T…..what’s it spell?
Every swim meet, started off with the teams huddling together and doing group cheers to get the excitement going. Our team captains were the older kids. The captains led all the team cheers. Some of the cheers were funny and I think they made those up. For every race we cheered on the individual swimmers. So, even though I was slow, my team was cheering me on. It was nice to be cheered on. I could really hear the cheering when I was swimming backstroke…..It seemed like the whole crowd was in on it…..including the older teenagers, parents and coaches. It was great to finally touch the wall and have the race be over.
The lifeguards were legendary.
The coaches and teenager swimmers were also lifeguards at the pool. They were legends in my 4th grade mind. It was cool. The lifeguards swam for our team. The lifeguards didn’t come to the morning practices. Maybe because it was 7:30am. Lifeguards were our “clutch” players. The lifeguards were friendly with all of us younger swimmers. They swam in the races at the end of the swim meets.
The meets got really exciting when our team was just a few points behind. That is when the coaches got all psyched up and told us how close the score was. Sometimes, we needed to win the last race of the meet to get the W. The lifeguards just sauntered onto the pool deck, shook their arms and legs (a stretch?) and stepped up on the blocks. They just powered through the laps. Doing these incredibly powerful dives off the blocks and leaving huge wakes behind their kicking feet. We were all screaming for them to win their races, and cheering them on against the competition.
Coaches, being coaches.
The coaches had no qualms about making us get in the cold water when the fog was still covering the pool at 7:30 am. They pushed us at practices. But they also laughed a lot and seemed to be having fun. Especially when our team won a meet. That was when all the swimmers got together and we pushed the coaches and captains into the water to celebrate.
There is nothing better than being part of a great team.
It is from this early experience that my love of teams and teamwork began. It taught me a team has a purpose and why teamwork is important. I learned being on a team can be fun. Having great coaches, helps a team prepare for competitions, encourages training and leads to strength and success. A team is great when everyone is moving in the same direction, working together, having fun and cheering each other on. That is teamwork. I have been on many teams since, both with sports and as a professional in the workplace. That is why the camaraderie and excitement of being part of a team is tops in my book.
Click the link to read more about Kirsten’s philosophy on leadership
To read more about teamwork, visit the HBR link, to the Harvard Business Review article on the “Secrets of Great Teamwork”
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