“I tried to lead by not being on the team.”

Posted by jlubans on February 01, 2012

Most sports stories don’t go very deep into teamwork dynamics. Sure, we hear of “chemistry” (good and bad) among team members or if a player gets injured the rest of the team is supposed to “step up” and make an extra effort. “Stepping up” suggests that players have not been putting forth as much good effort as they could be – a bit of an implied criticism. Or, maybe that exhortation is like what we do in the workplace when we suggest people “work smarter, not harder.”

A recent story about the three veterans on the Duke Women’s basketball team offers up some unusual insights. I was particularly drawn to Shay Selby’s difficult season and how she, a senior starting guard, was redeeming herself with the team.

Ms. Selby was suspended for a violation of team rules.
For over a month, “until her teammates and (Coach) McCallie allowed her to return, she wasn’t able to practice with the team or sit on the bench for games.”

Of most interest is that while the Coach suspended her, her return depended on the team’s approval. Now that is different! Did the coach have informal discussions with the players about Selby’s return or was it a vote?

I have often wondered about how we go about disciplining team members – in the work place – who are not giving their best effort. One of the most frequent complaints about student project teams is that the one or two high achievers wind up with all the work and only part of the credit. The one or two slackers skate by. What sanctions can a team apply to the unproductive team member? Perhaps like what happened to Ms. Selby, exile. And, reinstatement only when the team decides.
Here she is pictured driving up court.
During her suspension, Ms. Selby continued to work out, to do everything she could to maintain her skills and conditioning. She proved she was ready to return. The story’s most engaging comment is a quote from Selby: “I tried to lead by not being on the team.” That bears reflection and then some.

What did she mean by that? Throughout the punishment she behaved like a leader - she worked hard, she stayed in touch, she communicated with her team mates, supported her team mates, in brief, to quote the coach: she “worked her butt off even when she couldn’t be with the team.”

Since her return she has played in all the games, coming off the bench.

I got to see Ms. Selby in action when Duke played the formidable and fearsome University of Connecticut Huskies two nights ago. Duke did not do well. A young team, (mostly sophomores) it was a night to learn from. If anyone can learn from the drubbing, Ms. Selby will.

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