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Teaching moments from the Winter Olympics by Hank Berkowitz
Like many of us, you probably can’t tell the difference between a Double Lutz and a Triple Toe Loop. But, I’m sure you can tell the difference between a great team effort and a great team meltdown as the American men’s and women’s Olympic hockey teams demonstrated so painfully this weekend in Sochi, Russia.
Granted, both teams lost to superior opponents. But, the way they went down in defeat was UNACCEPTABLE. As men’s team captain Zach Parise admitted: “We got outplayed. We didn’t deserve to win. I’m kind of embarrassed where we’re at now.” Zach, so are we.
If you have young people working for you, or if you’re the parent (or grandparent) of young athletes, please make sure they understand that “USA” stands for the United States of America—not “Uninspired Sports Association.”
Lesson No. 1
Let’s start with the women. With four minutes left in the gold medal game against Canada, they had a comfortable 2-0 lead which they worked very hard to earn. But, instead of staying focused till the final buzzer and running down the clock, they started thinking about how they’d look on the podium with gold medals around their necks and a worldwide audience watching them sing the Star Spangled Banner with tears in their eyes. A dumb penalty here, a bad bounce there. Next thing you know, the indefatigable Canadians tied up the game in regulation and scored again eight minutes into the overtime period to claim the top spot on the tear-filled medal podium.
Lesson: No matter how strong, skilled and experienced your competitors, when you have them on the ropes, you don’t ever let up. Don’t let them into your market when you’ve worked so hard to carve out your niche. Don’t ever let them steal your best clients or employees, and don’t ever think you’ve got the Big Market, Big Contract or Big Client locked up until the ink has truly dried on the contract.
Lesson No. 2
Now, on to the men. Unlike the women, the men’s team is composed of highly paid NHL professionals. They lost a tense 1-0 semifinal game on Friday to the eventual champions, Canada. But, instead of showing some pride in the bronze medal game against Finland, they’d played like an amateur team that had already packed its gear and checked out of Sochi. Their uninspired 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the highly motivated Finns sent the U.S. hockey program home medal-less and back to the proverbial drawing board.
Lesson: You’re never as good or as talented as you think you are and you never underestimate or disrespect your competition. You’re not always going to land the Big Contract, Big Client or Big Speaking Gig that you worked so hard to get. But, when the next opportunity comes around, you can’t waste time lamenting “the one that got away;“ you have to be ready to land the next one.
Congrats to Finland and Canada (twice) for winning with class and for putting their big contracts and Stanley Cup aspirations on hold to represent their countries with pride. That’s what the Olympics is all about.
There Are Some Fates Worse Than Death: Mike Drowley
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Drowley “Johnny Bravo” is Commander, 66th Weapons Squadron. He is a US Air Force Weapons School graduate and command A-10 pilot with multiple combat tours. Prior to his current position he was the Commander of Cadet Squadron 15 at the US Air Force Academy.