February 11, 2007


T.E.A.M.: Together Everyone Achieves More!

"Money is like manure. Spread it around and watch how things start to grow!" The line is taken from the book, "Auntie Mame", by Patrick Dennis, to make a point. Money is not really the root of all evil. I believe it is the root of motivation for most of us. People need money to live; some people need more of it than others. All of us give our own meaning to the value of money.

Take for example the professional athlete. Based on the salaries of professional athletes, I think it is safe to say that money motivates most of them to play their sport as opposed to playing for "the love of the game." I do not blame the athletes for having huge salaries. The market currently supports it.

Team owners invest their money. Fans buy tickets, sports attire and financially support the sponsors of televised games. Athletes get rich. This formula works well in our capitalistic society. This is in spite of how some people see the unfairness of it.

Some people think there are other professions more worthy of huge salaries. Teaching comes to mind. Unfortunately, envy is as much one of the deadly sins as greed. The purpose of this article is not to pit one profession against another. Its purpose is to speculate on what the world of sports would be like if an athlete's salary were based on achievement (current progress in relation to the team) versus aptitude (past achievement).

If money is the root of an athlete's motivation to play, how can the money be spread around so that things can grow? I am going to pretend I am the General Manager of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. I choose the Tigers because it is my hometown team. What can I do to help improve the team's performance to represent growth?

My leadership style would be key. As the General Manager, I understand that I do not have the power to motivate the team. Rather, I would work to create an environment where each team member is self-motivated. What motivates the players? Money. Each team member's salary would partly be based on achievement rather than on past performance or aptitude.

Signing a contract offering guaranteed "big money" is no guarantee that the athlete will perform like before. It is possible for the athlete to become comfortable after signing such a contract. This could affect performance. Self-improvement suffers when an athlete loses that hunger to excel. He might think, "Why work hard anymore? I have my money." Performance-based pay is the way to go to keep everybody's interest alive.

The atmosphere I would create for the team would be for everybody to have the opportunity to earn a lot of money if performance for the year merits it. Each team member would have a base salary, but all earnings afterwards would be based on current performance for the sake of the team. In this sense, the word, "team", means the owner, players and fans (Three-Legged Stool metaphor).

I know what you're saying, "But Mark, you can't do that. What about the free agency market and the player's union?" You've got me there. Providing financial incentives that reward achievement and team cooperation seem to place second to paying an athlete for their past accomplishments. There is no promise that a .300 hitter with 50 plus home runs from the year before can repeat that achievement one year later. I ask, why base the current year's salary on the past?

Some athletes may balk at the idea of having their pay based on their current achievement level. Some might think, "I don't want to sign a contract like that. What if I get hurt during the year and can't perform anymore?" Yes, that is a risk. What about the players who agree to such terms and then start to play their game with the sole intent to improve their statistics? That, too, would be contraindicated to a game plan whose intent is to create a winning atmosphere for the team owner, players and fans.

What kind of player would want to play on a team that offers merit-based pay? I would look for ball players who meet the following criterion:

1) Players who are aware of their skills and comfortable with them.

2) Players who compete, but also believe in team cooperation to accomplish goals.

3) Players who act in a professional manner most days by having the ability to channel their cognitive and emotional energy in to the game as opposed to acting-out their thoughts and feelings in non-professional ways.

4) Players who acknowledge past successes and believe there is always room for improvement.

5) Players who have a strong and positive work ethic.

6) Players who have agents who reasonably advocate for their players. This means keeping in mind the Three-Legged Stool metaphor during times of negotiations: Team owner, player, fans. All three together stand strong and sturdy like a balanced Three-Legged Stool.

7) Players who give back to the community outside of their sport.

I would look to sign ball players who want to lead by example, especially the veteran players. Team spirit is essential. It needs to be about "togetherness" rather than greed. Companies like Wal-Mart and other enlightened Corporations teach their employees about the acronym, "T.E.A.M.", which spells, "Together Everyone Achieves More!" The world of sports has become a business; lets treat it like a business.

Team owners are looking for ways to make a profit. Players are looking for ways to win. Fans are trying to find meaning with it all. To use the Three-Legged Stool as a model, all three legs (owners, players, fans) are interdependent.

When a team owner can find a way to create an atmosphere that fosters self-motivation, the players find a way to win games that reflect the message, "Together Everyone Achieves More", and fans believe that the players and owners are giving the game some meaning, well, I say, "PLAY BALL!"

The smell of manure just got sweeter. (What do you expect from a website that is named "Stooltime Counseling"?)

Admit it or not, professional athletes inspire the minds of young people as do parents and teachers!

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor and
Nationally Certified Sports Counselor, Diplomate

Post Script: Did you hear the one about Jake the Mule?

A man is driving down a country road and is distracted by all of nature's beauty, causing him to drive in to a ditch. Nearby, he finds a farm house, where he stops to ask for help. The farmer agrees that he and his mule, Jake, could assist the man.

At the scene, the farmer gets Jake ready to pull the car by yelling, "Lets go Jake, and Zach, and Daniel and you, too, Matthew!" Sure enough, Jake pulls the car out of the ditch, all by himself.

The man is grateful, but perplexed, and asks the farmer, "Thank you, but why did you yell all those other names?" "You see", said the farmer, "Old Jake is strong, but he's blind, too. He is a team player. Jake performed because he thought a whole team of mules was helping him."

Moral of the story: Actually, there are two morals:

#1. It's a good idea to pay attention to the road when we're driving a car.
#2. T.E.A.M.= T-ogether E-veryone A-chieves M-ore!

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