On Coaching: Can Corporate America work like a Team Sport?

Women in Technology

I’m used to being yelled at. “Point! Point your toes!”
“Drop now!”
“You’re overextended, bring it back, good, good, POP! MORE! Nice!”

These are words I heard coming from the side of four apparatuses growing up. I can still, to this day, call muscle memory from years and hours in the gym. I can answer, almost turrets like, questions about gymnastics.

“What is the olympic order of events from 1- 4?”


“Who was the silver medal winner in 1985”

“The Romanain with the curly bangs! Ecaterina Szabo!” This one I know because I got my BANGS PERMED to look like her. While million of little girls where trying to be Mary Lou Retton with her gold medal, flashy smile and short bob hair, I was aiming for second place and wishing to be the girl NOT from the USA team.


(This reminds me to bring this up with my therapist this next week.)

As I work on a spec outlining Front-End Best Practices, I hear coaches yelling these old pieces of advice. Not figuratively, LITERALLY, I can hear them yelling “Point your toes!” “DROP NOW!” I’m working in the gym as my daughter attends her first gymnastics lesson.

I'm actually really excited here, just being a 13 year old embaressed at my mom

I’ve been careful not to push gymnastics on her too hard or too early. I was mindful not to put my own passion on the little girl I had. I remember Mr. Flinger asking me if I’d want our daughter, if we had one, to do gymnastics. He was surpised when I answered honestly, on our honeymoon, I’d never push her in to the sport. In fact, I admitted, I’d be fine if she never did it.

Sitting here in the gym for the first time in twenty-three years, I’m nostalgic. I can still do one-arm cartwheels, handstands, some other easy gymnastics basics. Years after quitting competitive gymnastics, my body knows HOW to do a double-back or a full twisting vault; I just can’t physically DO it anymore.

1987 Leslie

I’m confronted with mortality of youth.

I watch the girls do backhandsprings on beam. “I can do that!” My brain yells at my legs. “COMON!” But my body; achy and older and heavy and tired, sighs, too exhausted to muster any mocking comeback.

So I continue to write my spec and notice in the background as each girl receives input for improvement. I can’t help but equate my work to this teamwork. Spending nearly two decades in sports, trains a person take and give helpful critique. Somewhere in my adult life, though, critique became harsh and competitive. Someone forgot to tell the corporate world we were a team*. I’m sure it’s not just the corporate world, I know this because several of the women from work today spoke of a variety of industries and experience where competition ruled motivation.

To quote Jillian Michaels, “Now that I’m forty, I just want to collaborate. I’m done competing.”

1986 Gym Awards Leslie

As I near forty, this theme presents itself more often. Listening to the coaches, I think how valuable input can be. I trained hours, days, years with the knowledge my practice, and guidance, would help me improve.

How do I convey this to the adult world? How do we get back to team sports as adults -in our jobs? Is it possible to succeed without crushing each other to make a point about how much better than someone else we are?

I’ll just sort of let that question hang out there and leave you with this:

Team! TeamTeamTeam

*Views Mine, not my employers or anyone else’s.

**Points of clarity: I’m not talking about a specific team here, but a general attitude of the reward system of the American Dream. It’s more a discussion point to start than an accusation. At this point in my career, I’ve worked on a London team, Germany team, multiple types and sizes of business teams, and higher education. The idea that we can rise above our neighbor is “one of the great things about ‘Merica.” HOW we do that, is a question I’m asking. Gymnastics is an individual sport but we still celebrate and lift up our teammates. I get there’s more at stake here; people’s livelihoods and actual security, not just a happy feeling and a medal. But still, I wonder if there’s a way to achieve something as a person that is greater with a team than I could do alone.

Let’s call this middle age and all agree home-girl is thinking out loud….

Posted: 2/8/2014