Yesterday, I found a throwback tank I designed as a head high school track and field coach in Memphis, TN. I immediately thought of the symbolism of this shirt and why it remains one of my favorite traditions from my coaching tenure.
The tank top was designed to look just the team practice gear but on the back of the tank it boldly read “Athlete of the Meet. The key thing is that this was a tank top athletes could only earn, not buy. Based on a tradition from my college track and field coaches I issued these to celebrate individual improvement.
Each Monday during our weekly team meeting I would issue one or two tanks to athletes that either earned a personal record (ran faster or threw farther than ever before) or did something else worthy of praise. One time it meant the teammate that went hoarse from cheering on the 4×400 relay team got a tank – or the girl that selflessly rushed to get a set of blocks for their teammates was acknowledged in front of the team. My goal was to create a team that celebrated the big victories along with the small, yet significant, acts needed for a successful team. I don’t know how much my athletes looked forward to these meetings, but I know that whomever got the tank got public praise for their actions and would proudly wear them at practice or meets. This is what I wanted. I wanted the athletes to feel good and proud of themselves; I wanted to help develop confidence in these young women to help create a winning team.
When I saw the tank this week I thought about how as an adult I feel rewarded for my endeavors in self improvement. Track and field was a great sport for me as it helped me celebrate my individual improvement in a team setting.
Now, when I get stronger emotionally, nobody rewards me at a team meeting with a tank top, but somehow I have a feeling others will recognize it. The idea of walking into a room with a shirt stating, “Better human” wouldn’t work, but would probably turn some heads. Similarly when one can enter into a new setting with their shoulders pulled back and their head held a little higher, embodying a new calm, I bet its just as eye opening as a bold, declarative tank.
Just like the athlete of the meet shirts, there can still be a reward for a job well done. I challenge you to identify your reward and celebrate your improvement. Next week, you might become that celebrated better human of the week.