Finding My Team by Hannah Butler

 

My muscles ache all over. Sweat clings to my back and rolls down my forehead in tiny beads from where my tanned forehead meets my clunky, plastic helmet. The harness digs into my thighs as I throw my leg over the wooden beam hanging above me and use the rough woven rope to pull myself closer to the top. Using Grace’s sturdy knee as support, I push with my other dangling leg and finally hoist the rest of my body on top of the structure.

Yes! I sit atop the ladder and let the wind tickle the hairs on my arms as I survey my surroundings from 50 feet high. I extend a sore arm to Grace, and using the last bit of strength left in my moaning muscles, help lift her onto the beam. 

 

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Hannah climbing the ladder with her teammate Grace.

In the picture above, you can see the reassuring and solid support I received from my friend, co-worker and teammate Grace, who sweat under the sun beside me as we grappled the challenge course ladder. What you can’t see is the rest of our staff huddled together at the base of the oversized hanging blocks of wood, looking up, cheering us on.

One of the best teams I’ve ever been on was the resident assistant staff I worked with during my junior and senior years at Luther College.

Joining The Team 

Our staff worked as a team in many more ways than just helping each other conquer challenge course obstacles. We shared the common goal of welcoming and supporting incoming first-year students with answers (“The health center is located behind Larsen Hall”), encouragement (“Way to get an ‘A’ on that test AND attend the career fair this week!”) and helpful advice (“Definitely try the hot chocolate in the cafeteria, it’s the most scrumptious thing on campus”).

We were a team that planned events together, withstood hours of training together, stayed late at the start of winter break to clean and close the building together and arrived early in January to open it back up. We ate meals together, studied together and spent the wee hours of school nights listening to one another.

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Hannah completing a challenge course obstacle with her resident assistant team.

For a team that shared not only a common goal, but an entire building, we differed in many ways. We held varying religious beliefs, athletic abilities and senses of humor. Some of us sang in choir, others played Frisbee. Some hailed from along the coast, others from the Midwest. Members of our staff majored in philosophy, music, English, communication studies, art, biology, psychology, chemistry, French and political science. Yet for a group so diverse, we worked together and loved each other as one team. Becoming a member of this team was the first time I felt a true sense of belonging in college.

My New Team 

I have been a part of many teams now, and I’ve learned that they all look different. Other teams of mine have looked like baseball cap-wearing and as-sweaty-as-they-are-loving summer camp counselors, or like blue cotton t-shirts, dirt-stained legs and soccer balls. And some teams look like strong girls rocking the teal and purple logo, energized to play sports and empowered to make friends. Girls who boldly display positive health and leadership skills, and who are ready every week to have a blast after school. This is my new team. This is Girls in the Game.

After graduating college and parting with my resident assistant staff, I quickly realized that my status as a team member was not over. When I walked into Girls in the Game I joined a new team. At Girls in the Game one of our core values is teamwork. Our website reads, “Through partnerships and relationships, we will create stronger, healthier communities and a positive, cooperative environment…We are stronger as a whole team than we are as individuals and we recognize the unique contributions of all.”

Why Having a Team Now Matters 

Girls in the Game provides the girls we serve with the opportunity to experience this team membership. At Girls in the Game we show our girls what it is like to be confident, to be challenged, to be listened to and to work alongside people with common goals, yet different backgrounds.

We offer answers (“A commitment is kind of like making a promise to someone. Now who can tell me how we can make a commitment here at Girls in the Game?”), encouragement (“I am so proud of you for cheering on your teammates and working together in that last activity!”) and helpful advice (“Try dribbling with your head up this time, you might be surprised how well you can keep the ball inbounds”). While my new team may look different, the teamwork feels the same.

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Hannah working with her new team at after school programming.

One of the best parts of working at Girls in the Game is realizing that we are coaching young girls who don’t have to wait until they are in college to find a team to root for them. At Girls in the Game we strive to provide that support and connection now. And for that I couldn’t be happier.

If you believe in girls finding their own team to root for them at Girls in the Game, and want to see more girls find their support system, please vote daily for us to win $50,000 from Gatorade. Share with your friends & family who care about developing leaders for the future!

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