One of my key leadership insights came to me in an unexpected comment from a soccer coach in the fourth grade.
The way the leagues in my small town played out, some years I was on the younger end of my team roster, and for a few years I was on the older end.
One year when I was one of the more experienced players, I distinctly remember a play where I had the ball on the sideline, was able to evade a few defenders, and found myself near the corner of the field. I realized I was a bit trapped, and I glanced up to see the keeper in good position to stop anything I could shoot at the goal.
A light bulb clicked for me in that moment as I saw a younger player, Tommy, hanging out wide open on the other side of the keeper. With no other options, I sent a “playable” pass over to Tommy in hopes something good might happen. Sure enough, Tommy stepped into his shot and blasted the ball into the net. Beautiful!
In the fourth grade, teamwork at this level was still rare. My coach knew this and pulled me aside as the game was about to reset. He asked me, “Who scored the goal?” I said that Tommy did. He said, “You dribbled the ball all the way down the sideline and gave him a pass. Does he score without that?” I said no. Again, my coach asked, “Okay then, who scored the goal?” Before I could answer, he said, “We did. The goal counts for the whole team.”
From then on, these words of truth spoke into how I loved playing the game. Yes, scoring was fun, but there was something extra special in my spirit when our team made a great play that finished with a goal. I fell in love with working hard to get the assist or to spark the beginning of a great play.
As I have stepped into leadership, I’ve relearned to value the same principle. It’s great to score a goal, but it’s beautiful when a team works together to make that goal happen.
The goal counts for the whole team.