Lessons from a cold morning in Oxford

Margot GranthamMost evenings and every weekend between September and May for the last three years my youngest daughter has been playing hockey. If she is not training she is playing. Tuesdays it’s school team training, Wednesdays it’s under 16s club team training, Thursdays are for school matches, Fridays county team training, Saturdays she plays in Ladies 3rd team or county matches, Sundays under 16s club matches.

She will be 15 years old in March and I am her transport, personal assistant, laundry maid, and chief supporter.

There will be many readers who have been there, done that and have the mud stained tee shirt to prove it. If your washing machines could talk to mine it would go something like this:

“I don’t know if I can cope much longer. All I want at the weekends is a soft towel or two, perhaps woollens in a gentle wash and what do I get? Jammed full of smelly hockey kit on a 40 degree wash every evening from Friday through Sunday! I’m sure my filter is full of astro-sand and they never think to clean me out!”

“Only astro-sand? Piffle! Every Sunday my drum bears the weight of mud clogged rugby kit, I barely turn! And they always forget to clean me so the next wash comes out with grey streaks – and guess what? – they blame me!”

If we’re talking team work then the washing machine is definitely part of the team.

It is easy to think of team work when it comes to team sport. If they do not work as a team they are likely to lose. If they win a match they are united in joy and if they lose the team mood is unbearable and parents, coach, and manager become their motivation team to prepare them for their next match.

Every member of the hockey team has a defined role which plays to each person’s strengths. My daughter plays up front where the players have to be fast and fearless with strong stick skills. Defenders don’t need the speed but courage and good awareness of each other to keep the goal area clear of attack from the opposition. The goal keeper with a unique vision of the field keeps the team motivated and delivers a running commentary of the action. Parents shout encouragement like “good ball!”, “man on!”, “well played!”, “come on blues!” Teamwork.

The other week I drove my daughter to Oxford to play a team at the top of the league table. Last time we played them we lost 4-1, we had been out played. When the girls gathered for the pre-match talk they found that the goal keeper was injured and couldn’t play and none of the defenders were available for the game. The coach had 12 forwards and no defence. One of the girls volunteered for GK and proceeded to put on the padded kit, and after a short discussion coach had three volunteer defenders. They went on pitch as a considerably weaker side and it was clear that the Oxford team knew it. They had expected to win, but now they were sure to slaughter us. (We parents on the sidelines were sure of it!).

I think it was because our team had to rethink their game, or perhaps because of our greater disadvantage, all the players were even more determined to play well, our girls played an outstanding game of hockey. Oxford was taken by surprise. They only had five chances at goal and three were wide of the mark, whereas most of the match was played in Oxford’s half and our team had nine attempts at goal, all on target, seven were saved. The final score: 2-2!

The parents yelped and punched the air in triumph as the whistle blew, knowing we had beaten the odds. The girls were more gracious to their hosts, shaking hands and thanking them. Even though it was a draw, one team came off the pitch as victors whereas the other team looked and spoke as if they had lost.

Our team had taken a broken situation and affected a temporary repair to make it as good as before (though in this case better). Because their attitude and spirit as a team has been ingrained all season, throughout training and matches, it underpinned their performance that day. Perfect teamwork.

Watching that match reminded me that having a defined role in any group situation doesn’t make you part of the team if you have different goals, just as having the same goal doesn’t help you become a team member unless you value the other team members’ contributions and can work with them to achieve shared goals. In other words if you want to be part of a successful team, you have to be a team, just like my lovely hockey players.

Margot Grantham is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.

2 Comments on Lessons from a cold morning in Oxford

  1. I think it is a lovely example of teamwork Margot but it also demonstrates how sometimes when we are taken out of our comfort zone, it can often result in us lifting our game. And the power of determination!

  2. Thanks Margot, if things are going well then the individuals, the flair players, can shine – supported by the defence, the unsung heroes. When things look less rosey everyone has to buckle down and while it can seem that no one can shine in fact every one shines. Good luck for the rest of the season and I hope the washing machine holds up!

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