In a healthy living system two major processes are driving its evolution: ‘being separate from’ (differentiation) and ‘being part of’ (integration). These processes are interdependent, are in dynamic balance, yet are ‘opposing’. Both of these processes are necessary for the system to evolve to more complexity and to be healthy.
When I consult with sporting teams or individual athletes, I am mindful of the relationship of these two processes and how they may be interacting with each other.
We before I
In team sports, one often hears the saying that ‘there is no i in team’. This statement is usually directed to those individuals who act as if they have more importance than the team. This perspective highlights the importance of the ‘process of integration’ as a factor in performance.
There is an i in win
This perspective contends that a team does not actually exist in its own right, but is rather made up of individuals and that an individual will help a team win. This position highlights the importance of the ‘process of differentiation’ as a factor in performance.
West Indies cricket and Jamaican athletics
I have been amazed at the way both the male and female Jamaican sprint athletes have dominated the IAAF World Championships. In each sprint final event, there are 3 or 4 Jamaicans out of the 8 finalists. The final result usually ends with two of these athletes winning medals. For such a small island these performances have been exceptional.
While watching the pre and post-event behaviour of these athletes I have been struck with how much they love ‘performing’ for the cameras. Not taking anything away from his exceptional track performances, Usain Bolt always seems to be looking at himself on the big screen as he puts on a show for the cameras. He loves to be on stage; the centre of attention.
Athletics is an individual sport and is largely driven by the process of differentiation. This process is about the I, or SELF.
The West Indies cricket team, of which Jamaica is a significant part, has been under-performing for years now. There is very little discipline and unity in the team. On the field, the team looks dis-jointed and under pressure the team fragments and loses badly. It is clear that the process of integration is weak in the team.
In the 1980’s under the leadership of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, the West Indies cricket team was a unified, focused team that reigned over world cricket. The processes of integration under these leaders was intact and strong.
One cannot separate sport from the societal context in which it is embedded. I believe that Jamaican society is driven by the processes of differentiation and individualisation. Given this, it is understandable if youngsters on the island gravitate to athletics where they are the sole directors of their training and eventually the sole performers on the world stage.
Having said all of this, something special is obviously happening in athletic development on the little island of Jamaica and the athletic administrators need to be commended. They have a success formula. I would love to find out more about what is happening ‘on ground level’ in the athletics world in Jamaica.
In contrast, West Indies cricket is in chaos. In order to re-establish West Indian dominance in cricket, the administrators need to take a careful look at the processes of differentiation and integration that are at play in their system. A team sport needs individual brilliance with solid team integration and wholeness.