Coping with Competition
Using competition butterflies to make your performance better, not worse...
Forming a team can be riddled with challenges. This article will explore some of those difficulties and explore potential ways to address them head on, at an early stage. Although this article is aimed at competitive teams, I hope that you find it helpful in all areas of teamwork, from a weekend pick-up 4-way to big-ways, and all the way to the World Team.
People often ask me why it is so difficult to form and keep a team together. The easy answer to this question is, it doesn't have to be. I’m sure you have heard people say they are looking for the perfect team. Well the perfect team does not exist. Even if it did, the chances are that your potential teammates will have very different ideas of what their perfect team is. Having different ideas of what is perfect does not preclude individuals from being on a team together, they just need to come to an understanding of what the team will be.
Each of us is an individual with varying ideas, attributes, flaws and we approach stressful situations very differently. You will disagree with your teammates! The problem does not come in those disagreements; it comes in how they are addressed.
A team is made up of a group of individuals linked in a common purpose. This sounds a lot like a well-oiled machine, made up of many pieces, or cogs, all working together. So let’s introduce COGS - Commitment, Openness, Goals, Systems – an acronym for team success.
Commitments come in various shapes and sizes. First evaluate your motivations for wanting to be on a team, this will help you determine whether or not potential teammates will be a good fit. You will likely find individuals who have varying amounts of money, time and energy they are willing to dedicate. The most important part of commitment is that everyone has agreed to make the same level. Individuals will overcome a few of the hurdles to forming a team by first defining the level of commitment they are willing and, most importantly, able to make to the team and its goals. Topics to discuss are such things as time, money, jumping and non-skydiving training.
A huge hurdle for a lot of teams I’ve worked with is the lack of communication. Open communication will allow a team to overcome just about any obstacle that may arise. Be sure to note that open communication can only exist when everyone is committed, has agreed on a common goal and trusts that their teammates are all working towards that common goal. Develop a communication plan and stick to it.
Let’s delve a little deeper into the idea of a common goal. It will prove very difficult to find teammates who have exactly the same goals as you at exactly the same time as you. You need not have the same goals! However, you will need to agree upon a common goal for the particular team you are looking at forming. This common goal may be less than what you had in mind and more than what some others had in mind but, since it is what everyone can agree to, it will be something everyone can effectively work towards.
To put it another way, you may want to be a World Champion but can’t find three other teammates who have that goal. But you can find three teammates who want to work hard, train hard and can help you push your skydiving ability to a new level. This could be great place for you to start your pursuit of becoming a World Champion. Any team is better than none; you will not improve by doing nothing! All the teams I have been a part of and worked with as a coach have succeeded by relying upon one underlying theme, the pursuit of a common goal. This shared goal is what bonds a team and allows it to overcome the hard times.
Finally, you will need to create a set of systems that allow the team to effectively pursue its goal. It may sound strange to put so much structure into something that is supposed to be fun, but having a plan will allow the team to focus and have fun. Define as many things early as possible, but remember the idea is not to tie you down to a rigid set of rules, just to set some guidelines. Your plans may need to be adapted as the team progresses through the season.
The plans should include topics such as a preparation plan, a debriefing plan, a meet plan, a plan for fitness and off the DZ work-ons and finally a season training plan. A good way to develop a set of effective plans would be to work closely with a coach while forming your team and throughout your advancement during the season.
Good luck with your future team and remember to have fun!