A few years ago I volunteered to support the Continental Cup activities in Cleveland. This is an international sporting event that included 2500 youngsters from ages 8 to 18 from 12 countries competing in a variety of sports.

My first day, I was an electronic scorekeeper / clock operator for basketball games, seated next to a young man who was to keep track of individual statistics, team fouls, and team time-outs on paper. I received 2 minutes of training on the equipment; not sure he received any on his role. We did have experienced refs.

Unfortunately, the court we were assigned was in the middle, with fans at one end and the scoring table (us) and the players at the other. With whistles blowing on courts on both sides and required to look at the far end of the court for half the activity, ours was not an easy assignment.

I had to rely on the scorekeeper to know when to light the bonus and double-bonus indicators for the refs. He needed nothing from me. We were individuals, not a team, in tracking the score. As is not surprising, during one game our scores were different. Additionally, he was confused on individual fouls and team fouls, which understandably frustrated coaches. He wanted silence, except when he asked me a question, so he could concentrate. I wanted to verbally verify which team scored so we could stay aligned.

That volunteer and I never became a team. We went through the forming and storming stages, but never reached norming or performing. The refs had the same challenge. They were to perform as a team, but were thrown into the game together just as my fellow volunteer and I were.

All 4 of us should have been a single team, but instead we behaved as 4 individuals each trying to do a good job. No one with bad intentions.

My second day I had the paper detailed scorekeeper job. My “table-mate” for that day and I had about 5 minutes before our games started. We talked about how to work together, she trained me on my new job, explaining “little tricks” that make it easier. Our team of refs had worked together before. We talked with the refs about how they could help make our jobs easier, and vice-versa.

While far from perfect, the four of us were a fairly effective team. When creating a small team to accomplish a task, plan time for them to get to know one another, discuss roles and responsibilities, and agree on operating guidelines.

No matter how smart, how experienced, or how caring they are as individuals, they will not suddenly become a team just because the game has started.

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