Teamwork, Selfishness And Art

In team sport the greatest performances can only be achieved after all team members selflessly submit their egos in the service of the team and the team’s goals.  That is self evident.  Every coach knows that.  If you subscribe to twitter feeds like @Sports_Greats and @CoachMotto you will get hundreds of quotes from dozens of famous athletes and coaches on just that topic delivered directly to you many times per day.  It would take a rare insight or a selfish loser to suggest otherwise.

Andrea Pirlo is famous for being very good at playing football.  His teams are famous for winning, including the 2006 World Cup.  With a background like that one could (rightly) assume he has some experience on the topic of successful teams and very likely valid opinions on the topic.  He has written a book entitled ‘I Think Therefore I Play’.  With a title like that one could (rightly) assume that these very likely valid opinions may not necessarily be those one would expect.  For example, he tackles the ‘requirement’ of selflessness.

“I can’t abide the cliché ‘only the team’s success matters – I don’t care about my own’.  It’s the tiresome complaint of those who have no personal ambition, whether for want of class or lack of character.  For me, the team counts a huge amount but if I forgot about myself, I’d be doing my teammates a disservice.  Many individuals make a team, just as many dreams make a triumph.”

Overall the book is a great example of why more sporting books should be translated into other languages more often.  It would give insight into the way other cultures think about sport.  I learnt early in my time in Europe that while sport is universal, there are as many versions of sport as there are cultures.  The Anglo-Australian sporting mentality is quite different from the American version, and both are different from European versions.  Different cultures value sport differently and view it through completely different lenses.  Germans describe their handball league as ‘Die stärkste Liga der Welt’ (The strongest league in the world) while Italians describe their volleyball league as ‘il campionato più bello del mondo’ (the most beautiful league in the world).  Very different interpretations of the same idea.  In reading American sports you will understand sport in terms of science and philosophy.  But in reading Pirlo’s book, you read more about art and emotion.

With some behind the scenes stories about being a top level player and being in a team.  That part is the same everywhere.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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