The Greatest Team Sport is Marriage

Josh Babcock, February 14th, 2023 | Team Culture

The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, what a time to be alive. The USA Men’s Hockey team is gearing up with only a few weeks before the games begin. There is still one roster cut left to be made.  The head coach Herb Brooks brings in one of his old college players to come practice and play an exhibition game with the team. After the exhibition game, a few of the leaders of the team ask to meet with Coach Brooks outside the bus.  They express to the coach that they don’t feel what he is doing is right, with all of what the team has gone through together.  Coach Brooks says this guy does all the right things and will make the team better.  Now you give me one reason why I shouldn’t keep him. Then Mark Johnson looks up and says to him,  “Because we are a family”. 1

Teams are Everywhere

Everyone relates close sports teams to families, but no one talks about how families are teams. When you say the words “I do” at the altar,  you are joining a team for the rest of your life and maybe hoping to add little teammates to it as well. I would say a team is a group of people coming together to achieve a common goal. Being on a team you need trust, communication, roles, accountability, support, and sacrifice. You should have a core purpose, values, and a top priority.

Team Fatigue

With work, kids, vacations, parties, fantasy football, church, and everything in between, who has time to strategize their family?  I just want to come home, relax and not think about how to fix any lingering family issues.  Those can wait till “tomorrow”.   Somehow “tomorrow”  never comes. I remember being in high school thinking I was busy, then I got to college and thought what did I do with all that free time I had in high school?  Then the same thing happens when you graduate, get a job, get married, have kids 2, and so on.  Being busy is just a part of today’s world.  That’s why we need to cut out specific time for our family. A time that allows you to reflect and think about what type of family you want to have.

Measuring Success

It is so easy to measure success with sports. Why? The scoreboard.  You can track whether you won or not.  This is why you need goals and ways to measure success in your marriage.  Here’s an example,  I was listening to a podcast with Andy and Sandra Stanley.  They decided early on when they were raising their kids that their win or the lens that they were going to look through was:  “That the end of this process (raising your kids),  that our kids would want to be with each other and with us when they no longer had to be.” 3   Man, that is powerful.  That just doesn’t happen if you don’t have an intentional plan in place. Think of all the families in which you barely see each other and when you do, it’s more of a chore than a life-giving time.

What does success look like for you in your marriage this year? Imagine asking the Buffalo Bills head coach what success looks like for the team this year and he replies, “hmm, that’s a good question I’ll have to get back to you. I haven’t really thought about that too much.” You would be like, are you kidding me, Sean?! It’s to continue to build the Bills culture, empower the other coaches and players to be integrable men on and off the field, and ultimately to win the Super Bowl.

Now back to marriage. The reason why most marriages don’t have an answer to the same question is that success is not a cookie-cutter answer in marriage.

Great Place to Start

My friend Austin Barnett always says “just don’t put up a zero”.  I understand that thinking about your family as an organization and where you want to take it can be confusing.  But you have to get the ball rolling somewhere because it is SO IMPORTANT. In The 3 Big Questions for a frantic family, Patrick Lencioni writes about this topic.  I think a great start would be just to think about his three questions below.

  1. What makes your family unique? - think of values and strategies
  2. What is your family’s top priority?  - think rallying cry….FREEDOM 4
  3. How do you talk about and use the answer to these questions?  - think setting up your process

Don’t Forget the 80/20 Principle

80% of your results come from 20% of your work.  Don’t worry about getting things perfect,  just put in the effort and you will see the fruit.  “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour”. 5