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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teamwork matters—whether in youth sports or the pro game

We often post here on what may seem old-fashioned values in youth sports:  character, sportsmanship and yes, teamwork.

So it was interesting to see an article online this by the respected columnist Peter King of Sports Illustrated.  He writes about the Green Bay Packer organization, and the values it tries to uphold.  Of course, Green Bay won the National Football League Super Bowl championship at the end of the 2010 season and as importantly, presides over a heritage that has included names like Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi and Hall-of-Famer Bart Starr.

Now, the organization is run under the direction of General Manager Ted Thompson and Head coach Mike McCarthy.  The team leader is quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers was supposed to be a very high first-round selection in his draft some years ago.  But he was passed-over by several teams in what became a potentially devastating and ego-deflating moment.

Then came three years of sitting on the bench, before the opportunity to start and progress as a professional player.  Yet his work ethic, attitude and leadership eventually helped lead his team to a championship just a few short months ago.

King highlights a refreshing outlook and attitude in his post:

"It's funny,'' Aaron Rodgers told me. "When I was sitting in that Green Room at the draft in New York, and I was dropping, and no one would pick me, the last thing I was thinking was it was a good thing. But I'm glad I got to fall way down. I should be here. It's the place for me. The game is bigger than us. The team is more than us. It's a community team, blue-collar and understated and not at all about self-glorification. Vince Lombardi put it that way: Winning is the only thing that matters. It's about the team.''

We're in a me-first era. In most places maybe, but not in Green Bay. Not with Thompson and McCarthy and Rodgers, the leaders of this group. I have no idea if they'll repeat (a dirty word to McCarthy, who thinks every year is a new year with new players), but I do know they've created a model that every youth coach, every high school coach, every college coach and, yes, a whole lot of pro coaches would be smart to emulate. It's not just something they say in front of the minicams, and then sneak off to New York to make a commercial for Visa. It's who they are.

It’s not fair, perhaps, to expect youngsters to have that mature an attitude at an early age.  Rodgers himself had to grow in terms of humility and self-awareness—and he was a grown man, an adult.

But youth coaches can certainly share this kind of article by Peter King with their young players,  if only to shed some light on at least one aspect of what it means to be a “team” player.