This weekend one of my favourite sporting events takes place – the Ryder Cup. The every two year battle between the best golfers from Europe and the USA to claim possession of the most important trophy in golf.
What I find fascinating about the Ryder Cup is how, for pretty much the only occasion the very best INDIVIDUAL competitors in golf come together to form a team under the banner of their respective flag (don’t know what happens after Brexit but thats a debate for another time…)
Golf is a uniquely individual sport – yes I know that every great golf pro has a caddy and a team of sports psychologists and fitness gurus etc that help them but when it comes to being on the course it really is a personal battle against the course and the rest of the field. To be a professional at golf it takes a certain single minded focus on perfection. To be this good golfers have to have a pretty strong degree of self obsession – they are not automatically minded towards being part of a team.
I was reading in the metro this week about Tiger Woods and his comments when asked about his own pretty poor Ryder cup record. He has only been on 1 winning Ryder Cup Team and his own personal record is not great. This was the worlds best golfer for years – and many say he might be the best ever – and yet when it came to the Ryder Cup he is average at best. His individual drive to win and be the best he can came at a cost of his ability to work with others on the US team.
When you look at the Ryder Cup generally the US will field a team that are stronger in terms of world ranking positions – individuals it is generally the case that they are better players. However, the European team have generally managed to find a blend that has enabled them to triumph. Their team capability has on most occasions in recent history beaten the power of the individuals from the USA.
This teaches us an important lesson. No matter how brilliant a group of individuals might be – they will always be bettered by a team who have a shared purpose, unite behind it, support and push one another and most of all form a deep level of trust. This is what teamship is all about – it is not a group of individuals who happen to be brought together. Teamship is a bond that runs deeper and is formed by unseen strands of connection.
So as we go into the weekend – where the action on the course will be supremely intense the winning side will be the one who manages to blend together the talents of a highly skilled group of elite sportsman into a winning combination. The Team captains and their staff are just as much a part of this as the players on the course. Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk will have difficult choices to make – they can only play 8 from 12 in each part of the first 2 days. Every player will believe they should be one of those 8 – in many ways these choices and the way they are managed has as big an impact on the result as the golf on the course.
One of my favourite quotes about teams is from Patrick Lencioni when he says “the team I am part of has to come before the team I lead” In other words I have to be willing to set aside my own agenda for the good of the team.
Let’s sit back and enjoy a festival of brilliance that ultimately will be won by the team that masters this quote better than the other. I truly hope that Thomas Bjorn and his men are the ones that take hold of this statement! Come on team Europe!