Any team environment relies on a real togetherness and a sense of purpose and unity. Team dynamics are a challenge in any setting, but in the cauldron of elite sport and under the lights with the world watching, this is needed more than ever.
Our quest to achieve recognition and acceptance as the first female sitting volleyball team to ever compete for GB in the Paralympic Games needed that sense of unity and a clear idea of what our journey looked like from the outset.
Our sport is unusual in so far as the London 2012 GB female sitting volleyball team was made up of personnel from very different backgrounds, and indeed disabilities. Some were born with their disability; some were ex service personnel who had become disabled in their brave defence of the nation’s interests in far flung places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Others like me were disabled as a result of traumas. In my case I had the misfortune to sit a few feet away from a suicide bomber on the train at Aldgate on the 7th July 2005.
Whilst that day changed my life irreversibly, my subsequent journey through survival, rehabilitation and recovery has taught me that team work is all around us and vital in all that we do. I needed a team of specialists to help me recover physically and the immense support of my incredible family to give me the emotional support and encouragement to reset my life, my goals and my future.
Teams operate best when there is clarity about who is responsible for what, and when there is a clear sense of what success looks like. For us as a newly put together team in a sport that none of us had played before, we needed determination, resilience and a lot of humour to see us through.
That is one of the reasons we are fondly called the ‘floor cleaners’. Let me explain… We are famous for leaving the floor of the sports hall cleaner at the end of our training session than at the start. Our sport used to have the title of ‘bum ball’ so I guess we have made progress on that front since!
Humour helped us through some of our more challenging situations as we spent hour after hour away from or loved ones learning how to gel together, anticipate the next move and to bond as a team with common values, goals and a code of conduct to which we all subscribed.
We did not come away from London 2012 with a gold medal, but inside our hearts and our minds each and every member of our sitting volleyball squad knew that we were winners. Winners as individuals, as winners as a team. We had defied the odds and become respected for our ability and our athleticism, rather than admired for our disability.
I now spend some of my time sharing my story and experiences, helping individuals and organisations to recognise that anything is possible in life. As an individual I have had an incredible journey since that fateful day in 2005. As a member of a team since that day, whether in recovery, as a re-bonded family or as an elite athlete I have come to realise that success is best achieved if you are working together. I did it – so can you!
See Martine Wright talk at Future Talent 2016
Future Talent is proud to be partnering with: