“We a team!”, Gwinna exclaims. My 2-year-old daughter loves when I talk about who is on our ‘team’. It always varies depending on who is around, but today it’s Momma, Dada, Dobo (our dog) and Gwinna. When her grandparents were visiting, the team expanded to include Gamma and Papa. And later when my mother comes over, Nana will be absorbed into our team.
As my daughter embraces the concept of team, I’m reminded of my own love of teams. Especially sports teams. Despite being a sports lover from youth through college, I’ve distanced myself from owning this part of myself in recent years. The more I became a professional and ventured into psychology, ecology, spirituality, and conscious living, I hid my love of sports. Both to myself and others. Amongst other reasons, this might reflect my ambivalence about jock culture or the shadows of sports these days-from children being pushed to participate through the exploitation of college students for billions of dollars to the ways that professional athletes are criticized for commenting on social issues. Nonetheless, I cannot deny my love of sports.
I try to make time to play occasional tennis and rugby and find that I am better able to follow the headlines and my favorite teams this way. There is something about rooting for my favorite teams-Detroit and Michigan teams for those who’re interested-that brings up a very primal and innate part of me. It’s the same part that loved playing any sport I could when I was younger. Yes, I loved competition, winning, challenging myself and the physical engagement of sports. Just as importantly, however, I think I loved being a part of a team.
Team sports enable a shared participation in an activity to achieve a common goal. This is a powerful experience. There is something beautiful in this that speaks to what people need and what our culture is lacking. I love how sports can bring different people together-race, gender, beliefs, etc. Whether you’re playing or cheering on a team, for a moment it doesn’t matter if you like Trump or are a tree hugger. You’re aligned in something that feels bigger and larger.
When playing sports, you’re willing to contribute in whatever ways you can, to sacrifice and struggle, along with your fellow comrades towards a shared purpose. This type of unity seems increasingly rare in the world-from communities to workplaces. There are such competition and divisiveness in our culture that we continue to isolate ourselves. If you specify your community that tightly, you’ll never find the very belonging you seek.
And yet so many people do this. Our society is focused on defining ourselves: us vs them, good vs bad, right vs wrong. In the process of doing this, we are limiting, isolating and disconnecting ourselves from others. Instead of connection, we’re left with the bitter tastes of judgment and upset. Teamwork-bringing people together-is the antidote to this and is the very thing we’re needing more of.
Being on a team, you’re not as worried whether your teammate goes to church or what he eats. You care that they have your back, that they’re willing to give all of themselves with effort and sacrifice. In the name of something bigger than any one person, you’re willing to give of yourself. The purpose is playing and working together; for this cause, you sacrifice your ego and agenda. How many other places does this happen in the world?
It’s for reasons like these and many others that Teamwork is one of the EcoPsychology Initiative’s 10 Principles.
In a time of great division, we need to remember the benefits of being a part of a team, of belonging to something larger than ourselves. What we have in common is so much more significant than what divides us: our humanity and planet are two notable examples, though there are many others. How much then does it really matter what religion you belong to, the color of your skin, or whom you choose to love? It shouldn’t matter that much. We are part of this great ecosystem that is the planet, and that is the most important team to be on and cheer for. It should take precedence over all other things.
I want to remind Gwinna of a few things, as she and I share our love of teams. Yes, she should root for the same teams I like. 🙂 More importantly, I want her to know that though her family is a team that will always love her more than anyone, she belongs to a team that is so much bigger.