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Who’s your team?

When I’m not training regularly and then decided to recommit myself to Judo and BJJ, I have this individualist perspective. All my thoughts start with, “I need to…”, “I will…”, “I have to…”, etc., etc. When I picture myself on the mat, the people around me are blurry and I am alone. I will face Judo and Jiu Jitsu alone. In the dark. In a cave. Like Batman.

That perception is warped.

When I step on the mat, I am not alone. My coaches are there. My old teammates are there. New teammates are there. As training begins, my coaches guide me and old training buddies encourage me. When I am paired with someone less experienced than I am, I offer instruction and do my best to help them learn to remain calm and positive.

I need my team. Last Thursday, I tweaked a muscle in my (chronically malfunctioning) hip. It hurt enough to scare me, and I knew I was going to have to sit out the rest of practice. I wanted to cry, not from the pain, but from the frustration. I didn’t want to be that way though; I wanted to keep my focus and have a good attitude even if I was on the sidelines. One of my regular training buddies stuck close to me, telling me stories about a recent high-level tournament she saw and new techniques she learned. She kept me distracted from my hip and subtly cheered me up. I think it was the first time I got hurt during practice and left in a good mood.

When I got to work the next morning, I realized I was going to see my team there, too. Sure, staff has a “team meeting” once a week, but that’s our structured time for problem-solving and planning. Our real team work happens when the other case manager and I pop into one another’s office after an intense experience and need someone to help us process what happened. We’re a team when the maintenance guy cooks lunch for us and we sit together to eat. We’re a team when our supervisor sends us home early on a Friday since we managed crises all week and she’s proud of our work. Our team becomes strong each time we reveal ourselves to each other as human beings, either through teasing each other in the hall way or sharing our fears quietly in a closed office.

I can get a lot done on my own, but I would collapse without my team.

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