Who are the Champions on Your Team?

Olympic dog

My human team has been completely absorbed by the Olympic Games for the last two weeks.  I must admit I have been drawn in as well.  As we watch the competition together, I am struck by the diversity of human athletes.  Male and female.  Huge and tiny.  Burly and slender.  First timers and one athlete for whom this is the seventh Olympic appearance.  Some work in packs.  Others are lone wolves.  They are on land, on water, in the air and some are teamed up with another species.[1]

For many, to be a champion they have to be the fastest, highest, strongest, or most precise.  Maybe sheer endurance is what is needed.  The best in the decathlon and heptathlon are usually not the best in the world at any one event, but they win by excelling at many things.

Who are the real champions?  That’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  There are competitors for whom anything less than multiple gold medals and new world records is a disappointment.  Many have come to repeat past successes. Others who are unknown become instant celebrities.  We must not lose sight, however, that they are all superb athletes.  Most have achieved a lifelong dream by just being there, just by being an Olympian.

Consider the woman who was the first female sprinter from her country.    She was 23rd of 24 runners in the 100 meter race, but she is first among millions.  A few days ago we watched in amazement as a woman runner, tripped by a close rival who fell, stopped to help her competitor to her feet so both women could complete the race.  I have to confess, as a dog I don’t get that.  It must be a human thing!

Some of the most successful participants, the coaches, never end up on the podium.  They have the reward of being recognized as teaching their athletes to achieve greatness.  In a team event, the group wins when the coach knows how to bring out the best in every member[2].

Are you a leader?  If so, you will excel when you bring out the talents of the champions on your team.  Who are the sprinters who can get things done in a flash when needed?  The archer who can nail the target when precision is what matters.  Who are the decathlon pros who can do many things well?  Do you have the team members with many years of experience to balance those who bring youthful energy to the job?  I hope you have lots of people who can get up and keep going after a fall, and those who will stop to help a colleague who is stumbling.

One of my favorite stories from this year’s Olympic competition is the winner of the men’s 400 meter race.  He was an unlikely winner.  Not only did he have a 74-year-old grandmother for a coach, but he was assigned to the undesirable Lane 8. In the history of the Olympics, no one had ever won the 400 meters race from Lane 8.  Apparently someone forgot to tell him that, as he not only won, but he also broke the world record. Think what your team can do if they focus on the task ahead of them and not on what others think is possible.

I am keenly aware that the means that some athletes use to achieve their results have raised questions of fairness and honesty[3].   In the interests of full transparency, I want to disclose that I did not win any of the medals that I am wearing in my photo.  I borrowed them from one of my human teammates.  Remember, however, that our greatest day-to- day wins do not always result in a medal, a trip to a podium, or even a thank you[4].  Remember that one of the greatest measures of our success is that we keep getting better at what we do and that we constantly set a new personal best.

Your best friend,


[1] With all due deference to the noble equine competitor, we dogs were man’s best friend long before the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece.  Perhaps the International Olympic Committee could consider adding dogsled races to the Winter Games.   This is not just a doggy pipe dream:  Dog sledding twice has been an Olympic demonstration sport.

[2] It reminds me of a successful dog sled team.  The skilled musher knows how to balance the pack to bring out the best in each dog.  Sorry, I just can’t seem to drop this dogsled issue!

[3] Sadly, it also appears that some have behaved  badly after achieving athletic success.

[4] However, remember to take the time to recognize a job well done.  From a personal perspective, an occasional pat on the head makes my day! (Not to mention the occasional thrill of a juicy reward!)

One thought on “Who are the Champions on Your Team?

  1. Valerie Binder

    Harley, you mentioned the equine competition at the Olympics. I don’t like that event. The horses do all the work, but the glory goes to the rider. How fair is that? I truly don’t believe the horses enjoy it. It must be quite taxing for them – unnatural. I’d like that event to be eliminated. Now, you mentioned dog sledding… Maybe. I’ve been told that the dogs really enjoy it. Is that true? Of course your breed wouldn’t be involved in that sport. Boxers would probably be better in the squirrel chasing category, but I wouldn’t like those little rodents harmed. Let’s confine the Olympics to people. They have a choice.

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