Shut Up and Play

How can you have a cohesive team when some players use the press to air their grievances? Isn't a team like a family? Remember this famous movie line? - "You're my brother Fredo and I love you, but don't ever take sides against the family again!"

In ancient Greece the Spartans were a group of elite warriors. They fought in phalanxes, tight squares of men with each warrior's shield over lapping the man to his left. If a Spartan warrior lost his weapon during a battle, but held on to his shield and his position in the phalanx, his bravery was rewarded because he protected the integrity of the phalanx (the team). If the Spartan warrior lost his shield during the battle he was executed. Why? The protection of the phalanx (the team) was of primary importance, by holding on to his shield in the face of the enemy attack he protected those around him. If an attacker got inside that perimeter the entire formation could be destroyed.

Protect the team. Your shield overlaps that of your teammate and that interlocking/overlapping protection is security for all. Players today are too quick to skewer a team mate or coach in the press and the unspoken message to me is - ‘I'm willing to stab anybody in the back to get my way.'

Here are three basic rules for being a good teammate.

Rule Number One - When you're a player and you openly criticize another player or coach, you let down the whole team. You put them and you at risk. You highlight the team's weakness and give your opponents an opportunity. You don't have to like the guy to your left and right, but while you wear the same uniform you are responsible for not attacking them.

Rule Number Two - The sum is greater than the parts. No matter how great a warrior or player you are, you can't win without the guys around you. When you let them down, either by failure to prepare as well as you should or by placing your needs above the team's needs, you will ultimately be brought down yourself.

Rule number Three - Review Rules One and Two

I'm not advocating that a player follow along blindly and never speak his mind when he thinks he sees a problem. I am saying that there is a proper way and a proper time to criticize a co-worker or manager - but never in public and never in the press. I always went straight to a co-worker I had a problem with and tried to work things out between the two of us. If that was not possible I went to the next level manager and tried to get resolution. Sometimes I got my way, sometimes I didn't.  Either way, I kept my mouth shut and dealt with it. Why is that so hard for professional athletes to do? Just respect the other guy on your team and deal with your problems like men.

Like the interlocking Spartan shields protected the phalanx, showing respect for teammates and dealing with intra-team problems behind closed doors will make a stronger Cowboys team.

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