Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Come Together as a Team

Herb Brooks: So, why don't we start with some introductions. You know, get to know each other a little bit. Where you from. Who you are.

[looks at McClanahan]

Herb Brooks: Go ahead.

Rob McClanahan: Rob McClanahan. St. Paul Minnesota.

Herb Brooks: Who do you play for?

Rob McClanahan: I play for you. Here at the U.

Herb Brooks: Jack?

Jack O'Callahan: Jack O'Callahan. Charlestown, Mass. Boston University.

Those of you who know me already know that I find many of life’s most powerful lessons can be found in movies. I often find myself watching the same movie many times and each time being moved by the message and the lesson.

Herb Brooks: How about you?

Mark Pavelich: Mark Pavelich.

Herb Brooks: Who do you play for?

Mark Pavelich: UMD Bulldogs

I mention this because I recently re-watched the movie “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team. In the movie (and in real life) coach Herb Brooks took a bunch of rag-tag college hockey players and formed a cohesive team that took on the incredibly powerful Soviet Union hockey team and defeated them en route to a gold medal.

A quick history lesson for you youngsters – at the time, only amateurs were allowed to play hockey in the Olympics, and the Soviet Union, not having any professional leagues (and not allowing their players to leave the country), were able to field incredibly talented teams with a roster full of players who would have otherwise been playing in the NHL if politics would allow it. So generally, the Soviet teams dominated Olympic play, acting as the Harlem Globetrotters to the rest of the world’s Washington Generals.

Herb Brooks: How about you?

Dave Christian: Dave Christian.

Herb Brooks: Who do you play for?

Dave Christian: University of North Dakota.

Why was the 1980 U.S. team successful against such a powerful opponent? In a word, teamwork. Coach Brooks used some unorthodox methods to develop an intense cohesion among the team where the team was paramount, and all the players bought into the system.

Herb Brooks: What's your name?

Mark Johnson: Mark Johnson.

Herb Brooks: Where you from, Mark?

Mark Johnson: Madison, Wisconsin.

Herb Brooks: Who do you play for?

Mark Johnson: University of Wisconsin, Coach.

So why am I blabbering on about this movie in a blog dedicated to issues surrounding cognitive disabilities? Because I feel strongly that one of the issues that has made it so difficult for those of us in Colorado to come up with real, sustainable solutions to the myriad problems facing us all is the lack of a synchronized, coordinated effort to address those problems.

There are groups focusing on various diagnoses (Autism, Down Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc.), groups and sub-groups for various providers and Community Centered Boards, groups of families and parents, all of whom take many different viewpoints and approaches.

Now, I don’t expect that we will all agree on everything, but I do worry that the fractured approach we take now to address some very complex issues pretty much guarantees that no lasting solutions to the great crisis facing the cognitive disabilities system in Colorado will be found. So much of what we do becomes an issue of “protecting our turf” rather than looking for opportunities for change. Separated, our voices are small and easy to ignore.

As a result of our dividing ourselves, we are conquering ourselves.

So I think it is time to take the Herb Brooks approach. Come together as a team. Find our common ground and work from there. It won’t be easy, but in the long term we could find that we are much stronger together than we are apart.

Mike Eruzione: Mike Eruzione! Winthrop, Massachusetts!

Herb Brooks: Who do you play for?

Mike Eruzione: I play for the United States of America!

Then again, what do I know?

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