Politics. Religion. Not much else is able to so strongly unite or divide groups of people. What can teams do to keep things like politics and religion from being divisive forces? Since its football season, we’ll take a look at a football team as an example.
While it is not hard to find professional athletes vocal about their faith, the Philadelphia Eagles have become known as a team where, according to a recent ESPN story, many members “find common ground through spiritual devotion,” with players routinely engaging in Bible studies, baptisms and other faith-affirming activities. A large number of team members vocally place their Christian faith above anything else. “This is by far the most spiritual team I’ve been on,” said backup quarterback Chase Daniel to the magazine.
Not every team member shares the same level of enthusiasm for spirituality, so while players make a point of trying to encourage others to join them in their faith journey, every effort is made not to exclude those who don’t join.
There have been occasions, special-teams ace Chris Maragos said, when one player has approached another about religion and has been met with a firm stop sign. And that, they say, has been respected. In a profession where chemistry is so key, they are careful to make sure that no one feels either excluded or pressured.
“We can’t just take Bibles and slap them across people’s heads and think they’re going to want to join and learn more about Christianity,” receiver Jordan Matthews said.
Despite the religious diversity, team members agree that the spiritual prevalence means “It’s just a better atmosphere. On Sundays, we might lose, things might not always go our way, but to be with those guys and to have a positive environment in this locker room — not just the Christian brothers, but everybody — it just brings out a better atmosphere,” rookie quarterback Carson Wentz told the website. “I enjoy coming to work. I always have, but [it’s] just a whole other level now.”
Politics? Religion? How can a leader maintain team unity despite being challenged by divisive beliefs? The Association for Talent Development shares two key ingredients.
First, ensure the team has compelling common goals that members care about. The Eagles clearly have clear team goals in place, which creates a solid foundation for unity. But the next ingredient requires more ownership from members. The second key factor is a team that knows and cares about each other. For teams like the Eagles divided by religious beliefs, this requires that members step outside their comfort zone and get to know each other on more neutral terms. Family, hobbies and travel can be topics that are comfortable for all. When these two commonalities are in place, common goals and caring team members, larger differences in beliefs can take a backseat.
Start your team’s year off right by strengthening your team’s unity. A One Day Adventures event can give your team the time it needs to get reacquainted and reminded of the goals and values that brought them together. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-788-5093 for details.