Lifelong lessons from sprint relays


Handing off the baton

It might sound strange, but I like to see team sports participation on a resume. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never going to impact a hiring decision, but it does say something about experience.

It doesn’t matter the sport. The higher the level, the better—but I think team sports are best. The lessons learned are lifelong: preparation, accountability, trusting others to do their part, a focus on the fundamentals, and of course, teamwork. Expecting the best from yourself and from each other.

I ran sprint relays in high school. We weren’t even close to being the fastest four runners in the state, but we beat faster teams consistently. Why? Because we were nearly flawless with exchanges and we ran the turns tight. We worked on those two things endlessly and held each other accountable. We counted steps, put down tape and knew exactly what our teammate was going to do and when. Most important, we counted on each other to do their part exactly right.

Sunday football game films in college could be excruciating if you knew going in that you hadn’t played well the day before. Not because you feared the coaches’ wrath, but because you hated your teammates seeing where you had let them down.

As part of a team you have to understand that everyone needs you to do your part, and you need them to do theirs.

From running to coaching

As much as I’ve learned from my younger athletic years, I’ve learned even more from coaching—youth football, no less! It’s amazing what kids can teach you about motivating and teaching different individuals in different ways. Besides learning the game and having fun, we had two simple questions we checked ourselves against after every practice and every game: 1) Did I give my best today? and 2) Was I a great teammate today?

As a leader in your organization, it’s your job to be sure your team is prepared and you have a game plan. Put the right players in the right positions. Leverage everyone’s strengths and make any weaknesses insignificant (not everyone can throw the ball—maybe they’re better off kicking it). Once you have the right players in the right positions, just coach. Then let them run the play. Then coach again. You can’t carry the ball for them. Create an environment where they have high expectations of each other and hold each other accountable—as teammates.


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