The girls on the sideline were pacing, biting their nails and glancing at the competition warming up on the field. It had been their dream soccer season, and now it was all on the line. A handful of scrappy girls with little experience had formed a team in a local community league and had surprised all who knew them, even themselves. They were playing championship finals for two different age groups on this hot Colorado day.
With barely enough girls to field a team, they had invited three girls from the local travel soccer club to join their roster. Most spectators expected those three club girls, all starters on the top team in their community, to run circles around their less experienced teammates and dominate all of the games. But instead, they did just the opposite. They didn’t constantly hog the ball to see how many goals they could rack up, only pass to each other, or get frustrated when a teammate lost the ball or missed her mark. Instead, they cheered for their teammates, passed to the open player no matter who it was and encouraged the other girls with little focus in life to shoot, take risks and see what they could do. They celebrated every effort.
Off of the field, they chatted together about their goals, dreams and challenges. They became friends. On the field, they beat every team, except last year’s champions who had recruited three of the best players from another club team to help them win again. Now they would face them twice in one day for the two championships. They were nervous and intimidated as the reigning champions lined up. These girls wanted the title for themselves and their coach, a young minority mother who was struggling like their own parents did.
In Game 1, they started off timid, falling behind 0–1. Just after half time, they scored. Confidence came back and they played like never before. They ran, rushed, headed, blocked, stayed on their marks, talked and passed to each other, cheered each other on and won, holding the other team to only penalty points.
Game 2 was an hour later. Hot and tired but fired up from their surprise victory, they took the field, trusting and believing in each other. They were up 2–0, again holding off some of the community’s top scorers who didn’t get the power of “team.” Those other recruited girls refused to pass to their less experienced teammates, blamed them when they themselves lost the ball or got a shot blocked. When they couldn’t score, they suddenly kept falling down by the goal, “injured,” getting free kicks just to recover miraculously after the easy goals, which enabled them to tie up the game and take it to penalty kicks.
The pressure was intense. Winning this second game was just as important to this team who were also fighting for their coach’s chance to shine and get her dream job with the local club. The goalie took her spot, feeling the heat and the heart for her team. She bounced up and down with the shrewd focus of a pro. And she did it. She blocked penalty kicks with a single fist, lunging, stretching and reaching heights she never knew she could in order to give her team that second victory.
Stunned, these girls kept asking themselves if they were dreaming. They weren’t. They just learned and taught all of those who watched them some of life’s greatest lessons that apply to both our personal and business achievements. They learned what happens when groups come together — sports teams or customers and brands — and get behind common goals, treat each other with dignity and patience, celebrate each effort and, most importantly, become trusted friends.