First American hopeful Lolo Jones hit a hurdle at the 100m hurdles. It was enough to throw her off balance and slow her down just enough to take her out of first place and dump her into 7th.
Then we watched Sanya Richards, the favored in the Women’s 400m, loose steam as she came to the end. While she said her hamstring tightened up halfway through the race, it looked more like someone tossed her a piano, and she tried to carry it to the finish line.
That piano was making the rounds that night because Jeremy Wariner, the favored in the Men’s 400m, ran the last 100 meters of the race as if he was dragging a boat anchor.
But hey, these are the Olympic Games held once every four years, and Murphy is always out hunting for victims. If anything can happen, you can count on it happening and at the worst possible moment. The only thing you can do is to try to be prepared for it.
You have to be prepared if you happen to eat something that you aren’t accustomed to and it puts you out of commission for 2 days. You have to be ready if a stray flu bug happens to nest in your lungs and leave you with a fever for 3 days. You have to be ready if jet lag and lack of sleep disrupts your schedule.
Stuff happens. You try to do everything to maintain your schedule and your routine. But there will always be stuff that you can’t control. And sometimes it takes you out of play.
So you focus and work on the things that you can control. Like passing the baton!
The two events that the American teams were heavily favored to take were the Men’s 4 X 100m relay and the Women’s 4 X 100m relay. Yet, both teams failed to make it past their qualifying rounds. They didn’t just miss the required time, they were disqualified because of bad baton passing between the 3rd and the 4th leg of the race. They “dropped the ball”.
All members of both relay teams are extremely good at what they do. They run “real fast”. But the relay team depends on all members working in conjunction with each other.
And in order to work well together when it counts, you need to practice as a team. Both of these “teams” looked like they had no time to work together as a team.
In every team sport, there needs to be some team practice to make all of the parts work together well. In these shorter races, it’s exceptionally important to shave off every last bit of overhead in passing the baton so that the team can squeeze out its fastest performance. Anyone who has participated in any kind of relay event knows that there are all kinds of things that you need to keep track of to get that baton transferred within the zone as smoothly and quickly as possible. You can’t just throw four exceptional performers together and expect smooth transitions, a world record time, and a gold medal.
Yet it appeared to be what the team and coaches attempted in the 4 X 100m relay races.
What are some of the ingredients needed to make a good relay team? Probably some of the same ingredients needed to make any good corporate team.
- Individual talent. You need some raw material to work with and that comes from the individual.
- Individual direction. In his book, “Good to Great”, Jim Collins talks about getting everybody on the bus. The individual’s goals and direction has to be aligned with the group’s goals, but the individual has to be the owner. The individual contributor can’t say, “Yes I believe in what the team stands for” when they really just want to be accepted into the group so they can leverage the relationship for their own hidden agenda.
- Communication. Team members need to communicate between themselves.
- Practice time working together. Time together under a variety of circumstances gives each member the ability to know and understand the strengths and limitations of their teammates and to adjust their own game accordingly.
- A common goal. There has to be a reason for the team to exist. Even people who get together once a week to have coffee have a reason for getting together.
- A hearty desire to reach the common goal.
There are others factors that come into play naturally. But if you want to see what a team looks like when all of these pieces come together, just look at the Women’s Beach Volleyball team of Misty May and Kerry Walsh.
- Individually, they know what their strengths are and what they want.
- They use a variety of communication techniques.
- They have over 10 years together as a team practicing under all kinds of conditions.
- They have a seriously competitive spirit and a strong desire to win.
108 consecutive wins and two consecutive Olympic Gold Medal wins.