The ‘Me’ in Team

Buffy NaylorBy Buffy Naylor

There probably couldn’t have been a more appropriate day for it to happen than Halloween: The University of Miami Hurricanes executed eight laterals to perform a 97-yard kickoff return and, with the clock on triple zeroes, score a touchdown to defeat the No. 22-ranked Duke Blue Devils 30-27.

The “Miami Miracle” makes for great sports history and great debate (Was the win legitimate or not? Was that knee down?), but from start to finish, it was also an object lesson in true teamwork.

Miami’s performance put the old chestnut “There is no ‘I’ in team” and the popular, snarky response “But there is a ‘me,'” into perspective. A team must work together, with no one member being any more – or less – vital than another. While defensive back Corn Elder became somewhat the “star” of the game when he crossed the goal line with the ball, he wouldn’t have been there had it not been for what had taken place over the last 70 yards. There were four other players involved in the varsity juggernaut that had the football moving yard after yard, from one side of the field to the other. And while Elder was in possession of the ball when the music stopped, so to speak (at least for Duke, anyway), he was also the first person to whom the ball was lateraled and the person who, 40 yards down the field, received a lateral from wide receiver Tyre Brady. So if Elder is to be lauded for anything, it should be his participation start to finish, and not that he just happened to be the one who was able to safely deliver the ball that the entire team had worked to get down the field.

So no, there cannot be an “I” in team. A star mentality is toxic to the group effort. But there absolutely must be a “me” — every member must have a strong sense of their worth and their importance in contributing to achieving the goal. It was defensive back Dallas Crawford who made the first lateral to Elder after retrieving the ball that Duke had squibbed. (A play that, interestingly, is intended to reduce the risk of a big play by the receiving team. Whoops.) And after receiving the lateral from Elder a few yards later, defensive back Jaquan Johnson, in turn, passed it on to running back Mark Walton. Each player did what they needed to do when they needed to do it.

As a testimony to the strength of Miami’s teamwork, only the first play of their lateral strategy, which they call “Desperado,” is ever practiced and the rest is improvised. So that was 70 yards of improvisation by a group of players whose head coach had been fired the week before – after the biggest loss in school history.

So many lessons on so many levels — never give up, believe in yourself, etc. But more than anything, a team moves forward as a group, with each member doing what they can, when they can and as well as they can — and focused on attaining the goal, not the spotlight.

Follow Channel Partners Managing Editor @buffynaylor on Twitter.

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