Webster’s Dictionary defines a team as a number of persons associated together in work or activity. But, the real definition is harder to grasp because it is a feeling that I have experienced as a member of an athletic team for the last sixteen years of my life. The most significant years have been the last eight as a member of my high school and college cross country teams. The lessons I have learned about teamwork, friendship, communication, and hard work will not soon be forgotten and have often times shaped how I view other aspects of life.
The greatest thing about teams is the transformation that takes place. You take any number of people with different experiences, different skills, and different personalities and you throw them together. The outcome is a blending of give and take. Everyone learns when to keep their mouths shut and when to speak up. They also learn their role on the team. Their dynamics somehow fit together to form a group with one common goal, to run as fast as possible.
By the end of a season, I am not out there on that course running for me. I am running for my teammates who are out there doing the very same thing. We see the hard work day in and day out. We are broken down as a team. Yet we build back up all that much stronger. These teams are built on communication, friendship, understanding, and passion. There are tears, fights, and drama but in the end it makes the camaraderie all that much sweeter.
The team I was on at Stout this fall was by far the closest team I’ve been on in my twenty two years. After twelve weeks of seeing these people for hours every day the season ended and we could not be separated. We took extra trips, made dinner together, and ran together even when we didn’t have to. There was this bond that had developed that was like a magnet. We could not pull away.
This could not have been more evident on a very normal fall day in November. We were not supposed to have practice that day, the season was over. Yet, every girl on the team was there dressed in a ridiculously bright outfit ready to do what would start our annual tradition of the crayon run. Each girl dressed up in one crazy color head to toe not caring what anyone else in the world thought. We ran with our heads held high through the streets of Menomonie laughing the whole way. That day we found a hill to roll down, a new trail, and a bond. It was simple, just some clothes. Yet, I got tingles down my spine when one of the freshmen said. “Well, this is a new tradition, we will do this every year.” As a senior, a captain, and a friend those words made me truly believe that the running was just a tiny part of what we were. The bond that I had with this team would last far beyond our years on the team. Because of traditions we had started, other teams would develop into what we did, forming a legacy that will never end.
These are the people that see each other at our very worst. It is that vulnerability that brings us together. I have helped many of my teammates off the ground at the finish line and have been picked up off the ground when I was doubled over in pain Yet, there are those days when someone has the race of a lifetime and the energy is just contagious. My teammates are the ones who are there through the blood, sweat, and tears. They are there through years of races, team meals, practices, meetings, and morning workouts.
These are the people that become your roommates, best friends, bridesmaids, future spouses, mentors, and adopted siblings. There’s a bond that cannot be broken. We run for the passion of the sport and for each other. Just as in a race there are points that I feel like hell and points that I feel like I’m floating, the team dynamics are like that too. Running is a metaphor for life and when we finish that race all we have is our teammates. I believe in the power of a team.