Only one day remained of the 2013 NCAA Rowing Championship. For all intents and purposes, it was going to come down to two teams for the title: Ohio State and USC. Fourteen previous trips to the Championship had never put us in a position like this. It was almost thirty years into my coaching career, and I was staring at the moment I had dreamed about since first picking up a megaphone. The evening before the Grand Finals, as dinner wrapped up, everyone’s eyes started to land on me, searching for a cue as to what was next. Truth is, I didn’t have a clue what was next.
Intuitively, I had everyone grab their chair, and we made a circle so we could share what we were feeling. Several athletes chimed in, connecting the group to the multiple emotions that were gripping them: excitement, fear, apprehension, anxiety–it was all there. And then it happened…
Allison, the captain and emotional leader of the group, stood up, stepped into the circle, and looked at each person. “There is no @#$%ing way we are going to lose tomorrow,” she proclaimed, slowly pointing at each of us, “because I love each and every one of you way too much to let you down. And I know every one of you feels exactly the same way.” There was nothing else to say. We covered a few logistics for the following morning and settled in for the night.
After the racing the next day, a fellow coach remarked, “Your team was so badass today, they just ripped the heart out of the regatta.” Badass? Maybe. Really, they were just a group of women who let their love for one another fuel them in their moment of truth. I didn’t realize it was possible, but we won the NCAA Rowing Championship in the banquet room of the hotel the night before the Grand Finals had even started.
Your team’s culture gets revealed by their emotions in their moments of truth. What’s the emotional fuel that drives your team’s culture? What’s the emotional fuel that drives you?