Carl Mays: Talent wins games; teamwork wins titles

Jan. 25, 2013 @ 11:55 PM

There are numerous quotes attributed to sports figures who surely didn’t mean exactly what they said. An example is when basketball commentator Doug Collins declared, “Any time Detroit scores more than 100 points and holds the other team below 100 points, they almost always win.” Or, consider when trainer/manager Lou Duva said of one of his boxers, “He’s a guy who gets up at six o’clock in the morning regardless of what time it is.” In this group of quotes is golfer Greg Norman’s statement, “I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father.”

Of course, quotes attributed to Yogi Berra have filled a book, including his response when he was in a suit and tie at a reception for the World Champion Yankees and the mayor’s wife told him, “Yogi, you certainly look cool.” The Yankees catcher replied, “Thanks, you don’t look so hot yourself.”

When we chuckle or smile at these inadvertent remarks we also realize we have made our own communication blunders. But it’s another couple of blunder types I want to focus on today. In sports, one is referred to as an “unforced turnover” and the other is nicely termed a “mental error,” but could be called a “stupid mistake.”

In the recent National Football Conference championship game between Atlanta and San Francisco an unforced turnover, along with a mental error, led directly to Atlanta losing the game 24-28. The unforced turnover came when during a great scoring opportunity the Atlanta quarterback took his eyes off the ball and fumbled it away. The mental error came when Atlanta had stopped San Francisco from scoring but an Atlanta lineman was penalized for a personal foul, which led to San Francisco scoring a touchdown.

I have often emphasized that more games are lost than won – that more teams defeat themselves than are defeated by other teams. By no means is this relegated to sports. It constantly happens in other areas of life. Especially is this prevalent in business. Quite often, businesses that lose clients or fail completely are not defeated by the competition. Rather, they are defeated because of actions from within.

Sports teams that limit their mental and physical mistakes give themselves an opportunity to win. So it is in any aspect of life. Just recently, I was reading in a national business magazine how a major company spent millions of dollars on strategic planning, sales and marketing, which brought in numerous clients – only to experience failure because of fumbles and mental errors by other company personnel.

The article emphasized that jealousy, insecurity, selfishness and the lack of trust among some employees in the company led to defeat rather than to the success they could have obtained. None of us is immune to such an experience of failing as a result of shooting ourselves in the foot. And, it only takes a relatively few people in any organization – sports team, business or whatever – to hold back or cause failure for everyone else. On the other hand, it takes everyone in order to succeed.

Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (better known as Coach “K”) said, “To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.” Former basketball player Michael Jordan expressed it well when he said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

© 2013 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author, whose mentoring site is based on his “A Strategy For Winning” book and program. Contact or view