“The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts” . . .

. . . is a powerful concept attributed to Aristotle, and it applies to the 2011 Maryland Men’s Lacrosse Team.  Read on, and you’ll see how.

 Synergy Results From Teamwork

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is often used in the definition for “synergy”, and represents a goal every competitive team coach strives to achieve, but often finds elusive in today’s day and age where individual achievement is increasingly celebrated in the media.  And it often goes by another name . . . “teamwork”.

Moreover, synergy and teamwork are perhaps the most often used words in business lexicon because when meaningfully cultivated, the associated impact on business development and the organization itself is nothing short of remarkable to behold. Importantly, one needs teamwork to succeed in virtually every aspect of operating a business, and in the strategic area of mergers and acquisitions, synergy alone can determine success or failure.

In competitive sports, there is an important distinction — and that is teamwork is the “means” to success and the resultant synergy is the “ends” of realizing it.  However, in reality, you really can’t separate these terms because they collectively represent the subject empowering concept that was first formulated in Athens, Greece over 23 centuries ago.


Arguably every championship team in every team sport throughout history had to embrace and consistently assimilate this concept into their “modus operandi” in order to achieve the ultimate success — to be champions (or “the very best”) in their sport.

But the challenge lies not merely in cultivating legitimate unselfish teamwork, but to do so consistently throughout a season, and then fine-tune it during the final championship “push” at the end of the season.

Maryland Men’s Lacrosse

In my opinion, the 2011 Maryland Men’s Lacrosse Team represents the embodiment of this concept, which is frankly an astonishing achievement when considering they have a new head lacrosse coach this season — his name is John Tillman.  What is so remarkable about Coach Tillman is that he promotes this concept, yet he manages to do so in a very subtle, but remarkably effective manner.  Which is to say he does so by example, but you almost have to consciously look for it, because although the fellow is astute, perceptive and articulate, he is so self-effacing, it’s easy to miss . . . and therein lies your answer.  What?

Here’s what I mean.  Tillman is a master at deflecting accolades and giving credit to others, where credit is due.  And the more he distributes credit to others, the more they want to deliver for him. And if he were alive today, Dale Carnegie would say Coach Tillman really knows how to give others a reputation to live up to . . . for by his doing so, they will naturally WANT to do so themselves . . . and end up doing things they never thought were possible.  It’s beautiful to behold and frankly a brilliant way of manifesting self-actualization.

To Be Successful

It’s often been said about success that you can’t be truly successful at ANYTHING, unless OTHERS WANT you to be successful.  And the way I see it, MANY others want Coach Tillman to be successful.  This would include his predecessor, who is a phenomenal coach in his own right.  Coach Tillman will constantly remind anyone willing to listen that former Maryland Head Lacrosse Coach Dave Cottle had assembled an unbelievably talented group of young men, who were already a cohesive group of players who cared for one another, when Tillman arrived.

And when baited by TV announcers to take the credit for some of their recent come-from-behind victories, he graciously corrected them, and then attributed such success to the character and leadership of the various players on his team, or point out ethereal intangibles that can really get the most out of his players — for instance, the spirit and presence of a player’s courageous mother who recently passed away after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer.

In The End . . . It Comes Down To Teamwork

Although the push for the National NCAA Division I Championship still lies ahead, and will no doubt be taken one game at a time, it is noteworthy HOW the 2011 Maryland Men’s Lacrosse team recently won the Atlantic Coast Conference title — for in both the semi-final and championship games, they were losing badly to teams they had lost to earlier in the season.  Yet they managed to pull out wins in the waning minutes of each game.

Most teams faced with similar circumstances would have panicked and folded — but not this group of impressive young men.  They maintained their sense of purpose, quiet confidence and unwavering focus, and then just operated . . . as a TEAM.

This is powerful stuff.

Highlights of the 2011 ACC Championship Game (from the Maryland perspective) are presented in the two-minute video below, and note the two lacrosse players that the camera pans up to at the beginning are my twin sons: Kevin (who plays for Duke, who won the NCAA National Championship last year); and Ryan (who plays for Maryland, who would like to take “the crown” from them).   [Note: You may need to click on the below video thumbnail two separate times in order to view it on YouTube.]

About Spencer C. Young

Supports the Quest for Self-Actualization
This entry was posted in Getting Inspired, Loving Others, Never Giving Up, Staying Focused, Team Building and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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