Moving from second division to first division at the Queensland Schools Cup Volleyball competition is tough at 13 years of age. Having won second division in 2018 my sons’ team were pumped. Imagine coming into the 2019 competition having breezed your way through your first year of interschool competition.
The boys were untouchable. Well, so they thought.
What happened next?
They were placed into a pool of winners. 2 larger schools with a reputation for excellence. The bigger schools had already learnt the secret sauce of winning. “Playing as a team.” And that’s a lesson that translates to the classroom, the workplace and beyond.
Lesson number 1: Brilliant at the basics
The first game my sons team lost 3 – 0. This was the first shock for them. Last year they were fortunate to have a few players that had grown early. These individual players had shone and earned the team many points and arguably the win at schools cup the previous year. Surely, they could come back this year and do the same. The other schools had all been working on their ball skills. Instead of a few individual players taking the court with a few exceptional moves, they had a team that could all consistently serve, pass, set, spike and block the ball. A force to be reckoned with. This reminds me of foundation team practises that are ever so important. Getting the ceremonies right, understand why they are important and practise and grow together as a team.
Lesson number 2: Leading indicators for tracking in the right direction
The second game was on. The boys were alert now. This was not going to be easy. The advantage the coach had at this point was their initial game statistics. During their team huddle post game 1, she started to share the results so far. Rather then share stats around the number of aces served or kill spikes, it was about the foundation skills and how the team was supporting each other.
Key statistics like % of passes that were playable and the ability for 2 players to work together to block and shutdown the competition was shared. I liken this to thinking about which statistics will be valuable as leading indicators for progress in product teams. Has the team stabilised? Are there still constraints in our process? Is there a stable velocity?
Back to the volleyball match. They lost the second match 3-1. The scoreboard didn’t reflect their improvement. The game scores showed a definite trend up in number of overall points won. They were starting to support each other, chase the ball down and get the ball up to setup the play and get closer to the win. This was real progress.
Lesson number 3: Celebrate early and often
A developing theme across many of their games was the growing comradery and support for each other. After each point it might have been a simple pat on the back. After a game it was a team huddle and after the match it was the school war cry. The point being the team didn’t wait for the final match in the same way we encourage teams to not wait until the final release.
Small celebrations often helped the team to maintain their motivation levels, be resilient through the tough points and ultimately finish together.
They had become a team that could be proud of their achievements.
This weekend was the warmup round for them. Next, they are off to the National Schools Cup at the Gold Coast in December. With plenty of training sessions ahead of them between now and then, I can’t wait to see them play together again.
3 cheers for long-lived teams, growing and winning together over time.