Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
These are Your Siblings
I’m not much of a sports enthusiast. Yet every year I’m drawn to the last few games of the World Series. My sons and husband know the details about all sorts of players and managers and strategies in several sports. My interest is simply to marvel at the artistry of game well played, and to cheer for the team that my family members are supporting.
As a leader of a different sort of team, I am also intensely interested in the various stories that circulate before and after a defining game about team management. As much as I want the game to be simply a game, I can’t help but want to consider some managerial nugget.
The last game in the World Series this year was one of the best I’ve ever watched – a nail-biter to the end. Like everyone else who watched it, I was on that roller-coaster of “We’ve got it sewn up”; “We blew it”; “It’s tied in the eighth”; “Oh, no, it’s raining”; “After 108 years, we did it!” When the nail-biting ended and the cheering began, explanatory commentaries followed.
There were three take-aways for me in the various commentaries that I combed. There was the obvious one about “it takes team work.” The Chicago Cubs used five different pitchers in the final game, and eight different players drove in their eight different runs. But I have to assume that the other team, as well as winning and losing teams in the past, could also point to the way that each player contributed to the “whole.” I’ll assume that was a necessary, but not sufficient, part of the equation.
The second piece – the role that Jason Heyward played during the rain delay - appears to be unique to this game. Jason Heyward had a poor post season. His batting average (.104) was low as was his on-base percentage (.140). Yet when the game was delayed for rain at the end of the tied 9th inning, Jason hustled his team players inside – no managers, no one else, just the team with Jason taking the role of inspirational leader. Following this 17-minute period, the game resumed and the Cubs won. Players commented on how his talk was pivotal.
What did he say? Players said that he looked at each of them and said how each had brought them to this point, how they would win if they continued to believe in each other and played for each other. He said, “These are your brothers here, fight for your brothers, lift them up, …continue to be us.” I believe that it was that message about team members ability to step out of personal fears, perhaps shame as well, to uplift “the other” that was key. It may also have been about who delivered the message. Not a hero, not an extraordinary player, just one of the players who struggled throughout the season.
There was one more nugget that tied it together for me and helped explain how an “ordinary” player might rise up in this way to inspire his team to victory. The Cubs’ President, Theo Epstein, has a management philosophy of building a team of “good people.” His overriding philosophy is that good human beings make good players. He charges his scouts to look for good human beings. He has them analyze the player’s capacity to deal with adversity, and he has a five-person mental skills team that works with the players continuously on mindfulness and meditation.
When I think about our practices and philosophy at Wornick, I see parallels to the take-aways in the Cubs’ win. Our chavurot and our social action activities teach our children that “we are brothers” (or siblings). Our purpose is to lift each other up. The emphasis on Jewish values – midot (character traits) - creates a community of “good human beings”. Taking time to step out of the busy-ness of life, to meditate, to be inspired, to be introspective is not “time off task” but rather the space needed to bring about success. Of course none of this would matter if strong skill development were lacking. It is the combination – skill, support for other, goodness and contemplation – that brings the defining “win”.
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