I saw my alma mater, the Fairmont Firebirds, play in the state semifinals a few days ago. Up to that point, they had only lost one game all season with a young team (one senior, no juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen).
In watching them play three times in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a few keys to their success:
1. Players know and accept their roles. There’s a huge difference between knowing and accepting roles. The Firebirds not only know their individual jobs on the court, but they eagerly play within those roles. Shooters shoot, slashers slash and rebounders rebound. They know that by staying within their assignments and playing to their strengths, they have the best chance to win.
2. Players stay focused. Even under pressure, Fairmont players stay focused on the task at hand. They maintain their composure. They respect and listen to their coach (no talking back). This kind of mental discipline develops not on game day, but in practice and conditioning.
3. Players work hard. The Firebirds play with intensity, aggressiveness and passion. They also do little things that show their work ethic—like running off the court for timeouts or to the other end for a free throw. These seem like small things, but they show purpose, intensity and togetherness.
Fairmont met some tough opponents this year, and even in games where they weren’t the more athletic team or were outmatched at certain positions, they came away with wins because they understood these keys to teamwork.
No matter what kind of team we participate on (business, sports, family), we can learn from the Firebirds. Knowing and accepting our role helps clarify what’s expected of us and keeps us from trying to be someone else. Developing mental discipline will enable us to remain focused on our responsibilities. And working hard—even on the little things—will give our team the extra edge.