The Word “Team” and the Walls Within It


During our work in the summer, I was really excited to reboot the robotics team, and to improve on everything from the year before. The time to act was now; to get a running jump on season 2, and to prepare us for unparalleled success. One of the things that I pursued was why we were labeled in our school’s activities list as the “robotics club”, and not the “robotics team”. Of course, I had at many times called our team a club, and in retrospect, it was only then that I realized that we were a true team, and that there was nothing “club” about us. Nevertheless, this realization has been more beneficial to me than the simple four letter word change in next year’s activities list. It is what gives me now a sense of entitlement that I may not’ve otherwise had. Unlike a club, we have a goal and we compete at competitions; by definition those are the separating factors of a team.
This new idea of team is in a way, not new at all. In fact, throughout my robotic career, I have progressively become a leader of sorts within the team, but I always (sometimes) tried to remember that we were a democratic team, and that technically my opinion meant no more than anyone else’s. This was not so much a matter of the robot, but who was contributing effort wise, and who was not. Because of this, my word, being more assertive (and generally more right, if I can be so bold), was for the most part, authority. Cheryl and Jerry’s words always trumped mine, and this I never questioned, nor did I ever truly defy Danny’s thinking when it came to the robot. But when it came to “blank, if I see that computer screen show Minecraft one more time I’m turning it off”, I had full jurisdiction.
Now, with two teams, my job became more difficult. I had to control an entire team without help from Jerry and Cheryl who were busy keeping each team somewhat on track. Without true authority, I couldn’t actually run the team. That is, until I was given permission. At the third meeting, Cheryl appointed me leader of team Cougarbots, and after a bit of confusion, I appointed Thomas leader of team Cougarbytes; he was not opposed.
Before this change, we operated under a different team model. In theory, there was supposed to be no leader. We were supposed to have a team with no walls where everyone contributed, and no one person could be pointed to as having a more important role. But the funny thing about this idea is that despite it, walls were built. We separated ourselves into two mini-teams; Build team, and Marketing team. The Build team generally built and programmed the robot, while marketing team made the team video, shirts, poster board, and on the less productive side – played Minecraft. In a way, having a leader doesn’t change much. On the other hand, having the ability, as leader, to divide your team into subdivisions with each having a short term goal in mind does in a way leave less of a wall built. People that were designing shirts one day, may be programming the robot the next day, and building the day after. Perhaps, the only way to prevent walls is to have ones you can step over.


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