Teamwork motivates generation


I spent some time recently with a group of high school students working on a community service project. They planned and executed a Glow Run/Walk to benefit their local Special Olympics. And something occurred to me while watching them collaborate, many members of the group involved in school clubs and activities, including athletics:

This generation, characterized by their social media platforms, and specifically their endless stream of selfies, may not be as self-absorbed as we once thought.

Webster’s Dictionary added the word “selfie” to their publication in 2014, defining the phenomenon, now common in our everyday lives as “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.”

Review the Facebook or Instagram account of most teenagers, and you’ll find streams of these self-snapped photos, some shots of just the teen, others with everyone or anyone they meet: friends, strangers or celebrities, they all turn up in the arms-length pics.

But as much as this generation is known for their selfi-ness, they are not necessary guilty of selfishness. And sports can be a major factor in exposing young people to the concept of being part of something bigger than themselves.

From an early age, 6 or even younger, children enjoy playground games as part of preschool activities or physical education classes. They may also join an organized youth soccer or T-ball program, introducing them to the concept of team athletics.

They often begin their journey in a non-competitive environment, where everyone plays and little attention is given to the score. As they grow older, the competition increases, along with the pressure, and with it, the value of sharing the experience with others.

Even when competing solo, like wrestling or tennis, swimming or cross country, the preparation to compete is shared as a group, with individual achievement ultimately counting toward a team total.

In the wrestling room, swimming pool or running trail, teammates push one another to be their best, giving each athlete the opportunity to gauge their progress and their ability; in tennis, it’s nearly impossible to practice alone; and in any sport, self-motivation is one of the hardest things to achieve.

So those team experiences from youth soccer, to high school sports to class projects to the workplace, make a difference for all, including those in that selfie generation.

As I observed this group of teens working together, inspired by their common goal to help the Special Olympics program, they behaved like a team. They divided their tasks by the ability of those in the group, they set aside egos and personal agendas, and gave their best to help one another and their chosen cause.

They may have taken a few selfies before all was said and done, but they also displayed a selflessness that reflected well on their generation, and proved the value of being part of team.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.