What a Team Needs for a Comeback

Swing is the rowing term for “flow"

What a Team Needs for a Comeback
John Seel
February 1, 2022
Leadership & Followership

Last month the University of Georgia football team overcame a forty-one-year drought in winning the college football national championship over their perpetual nemesis the University of Alabama. The game was a heavyweight battle to the end with Alabama leading for most of the game.

The story behind the University of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV is one that is made for Hollywood.

He grew up in Blackshear, Georgia and dreamed from a young age of being a quarterback for the Bulldogs. It seems highly unlikely as he was deemed too small and too slow. He was a walk on player for Georgia running the scout team and sharing a locker with another player.

He transferred to a junior college in Mississippi to get more playing time and was later recruited by Louisiana. Then Kirby Smart, the George coach, offered Bennett a scholarship but he was still a long shot to be given the helm of the team.

In the 2021 SEC Championship game #1 ranked Georgia was embarrassed by Alabama losing 44-24. The Alabama quarterback, Bryce Young, went on to win the 2021 Heisman Trophy.

The 2021 college championship game had the makings of an epic event with all the pressure of the Super Bowl and the heightened enthusiasm of SEC football. On his first play in the game, Bennett was sacked for a loss.

Late in the fourth quarter with Georgia winning, Bennett fumbled the ball leading to a go ahead Alabama touchdown. When Georgia came back on the field needing a touchdown to win, receiver Jermaine Burton said, “Not going to let that happen to any of us, but especially, no way we were letting that happen to Stetson.”

The game ended with Georgia winning 33-18 and Stetson winning the MVP Award.

After years of losing to his former mentor, Kirby Smart did things differently this year implementing “Skull Sessions” to help players get mentally on the same page. Georgia senior offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer commented on the significance of the Skull Session:

“We are having these deals called ‘Skull Sessions.’ I think we’ve been doing them for the past five or six weeks for three days out of the week. So, we will have them after our lifts, and after our lifts we will split up in to two groups—you know for COVID protocols of course. We would talk about all types of stuff; what is your why, our team DNA, goal settings, all types of different aspects and we hit one different topic a week. So yeah, it has been pretty good, and it has been pretty good for us. One of my favorite ones is the why of course. If you can know a guy’s why, your teammate’s why, then you can push them to do things that you never thought they could do. It has made us a totally different team.”

I was rooting for Alabama in this game. But when I heard of these “Skull Sessions” as the game was starting, I knew that Georgia had a relational secret weapon the skilled players and national accolades would not be able to overcome.

That secret weapon was “swing.”

Swing is the rowing term for “flow,” that moment in a race when the crew’s divergent strengths achieve the synchronized harmony of high performance. Aristotle described this as “a kind of a whole that is beyond its parts.” Swing is the experience of pure teamwork realized while enduring the extremities of individual pain. It is as much about relational emotional connection as it is about synchronized technique. It is the fusion of the two.

Sure enough, late in the fourth quarter when fatigue was setting in and the game was on the line, Georgia’s swing prevailed. It was a case study in everything that the Severn Leadership Group teaches wrapped up into a three-hour national contest.

Teams are composed of people. When they share a common bond and a deep appreciation of each other’s why, the synergy of individual talent is compounded multi-fold at the point of greatest pressure.

For Georgia, swing prevailed for the win.

What a Team Needs for a Comeback

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