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NEWS | May 29, 2013

Lessons from a youth soccer team

By Lt. Col. Andy Dawson 841st Transportation Battalion commander

In April, my family and I traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C. to watch my son's team play in a youth soccer tournament. The team played well and earned a spot in the championship game on Sunday afternoon.

Just before the game, the parents between the two teams engaged in casual conversation. A father from the other team made an interesting statement to me. He said, "We talked to the coach of the team you all beat this morning and got your scouting report." The father continued, "The coach said your boys are relentless and play with passion, they never give up and they are very skilled."

I chuckled as I thought of his comments, thinking to myself, "Does he realize he is talking about 9- year old boys, and not professionals?"

As the weeks have passed since the tournament, I have thought about those statements often. Specifically, how impressive it was for an opposing coach to identify the passion of a team of 9- year old boys, and as a leader can I inspire those qualities in the members of my command as we conduct our mission?.

I'm not really sure how the boys on my son's team developed such passion for soccer at a young age, but I will admit they sure were fun to watch on the field.

As you look at your organization, do customers, or those not in the organization, see the passion of your employees? Do others marvel at the things your organization can do? What steps as a commander, leader, or employee can you take to promote that climate in your organization? We all desire to be the best, but have we done our own individual part?

The current United States Army Soldier's Creed has two important lines: "I will never accept defeat. I will never quit." These lines can have many meanings, but simply put, they both express a commitment to a task. Is commitment a hallmark of your organization, or are simple things falling through the cracks? As leaders, do you wonder why what may seem like simple tasks are not accomplished? How did a bunch of 9- year olds learn to "never give up" and play to the final whistle? Are you committed to doing the same to accomplish your organization's mission?

Finally, we all take pride in our technical proficiency and skills and ability to do our job. As we transition from a military at war to a military focused on training and preparing for the next mission, we will return to basics. For those in military uniform, that means a return to individual training, mission rehearsal exercises and command readiness inspections. For my son, it just means more time on the practice field. Regardless of the situation, the more you practice, the better you become.

My son's team went on to win the game 6-2, and won their age bracket at the tournament. I was left wondering if the father I talked with before the game thought the scouting report was accurate. At work, I wonder what this team of little boys could teach our organizations.

This will be my last commentary at Joint Base Charleston as I depart this summer during the annual, change of command season. I would like to thank Col. Richard McComb, Joint Base Charleston commander, and the 628th Air Base Wing staff, fellow commanders and the JB Charleston community for the tremendous support displayed to the 841st Transportation Battalion during my command tour. The cooperation and support here in Charleston has enabled the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command to provide world-class logistics support to our warfighters.

Army Strong!