What A-Teams can learn from B-Teams

By Tesa Raymond, Account Director

Photo by: Tony Scott, YHH

“The A-team.” Over the course of my career, I’ve been honored to be a part of, and lead, many of them. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of what I get to do now. That said, I also believe there’s something to learn from the journey along the way. Some of the best career advice comes from the stories of people who were still climbing their way to the top. Driven, determined, passionate people that learned from their failures, started over, followed their successes, then persevered and worked their way to the top of their profession. These stories also make for a great podcast. As I shuffle through my phone, it’s nearly all that I subscribe to.


But this past year, I learned some really good lessons from someone who didn’t reach the top. Someone who persevered, worked hard, and actually kicked ass in the second spot—not at the top. He’s eleven, and he doesn’t have a podcast.


My fifth-grade son made the B-team for traveling hockey this season. We went through all the typical conversations after tryouts: disappointment, defeat, doubt. As parents, the B-team was no surprise to us. We knew he wasn’t ready to play on the A-team this year and that he would struggle to grow and improve at a level where he would be constantly playing catch-up. Eventually he was able to shake it off and remember why he was playing in the first place—for the love of the game. And, I suppose, I love the game, too. Kind of. I hate the smell, the driving, the cold, the 7am games (did I mention the smell?). But what I really loved this season were the important lessons that came from being in that second spot.


Grow where you are planted.

While this might seem obvious, it’s not always the case. Sometimes, at first blush, not everything seems like the best opportunity or the “top team.” There have been times in my career when, initially, I have questioned the assignments I have been asked to take on. But each of those instances were the times where I’ve seen the most growth and, eventually, had the most opportunity. It’s where I have had to utilize a different set of skills—or learn new ones—to make the opportunity successful. In my son’s case, he was quickly put into a leadership role on the team. As one of the stronger players, he began to understand that other kids would follow his lead. It became very important to him to show up at each practice giving 110% effort and show good sportsmanship out on the ice during a game. He wouldn’t have had this opportunity if he had played on the A-team. So, the lesson? Say yes to what seems like a random assignment, and then make it into your own success story.


Find your “Believer.”

Many of the people in my podcast episodes have had an incredible mentor or a person along the way who truly believed in them, in good times and in bad. Not someone who only serves up gushy compliments, but someone who is honest and calls you out when you are wrong. Great confidence comes in knowing someone’s got your back, no matter what.


In one of the more pivotal games of the season, our team played in the fancy Mariucci Arena that seats 10,000 people. The sheet of ice was huge for the boys. The music was blaring, tons of parents and grandparents in the stands, all out to watch 4th and 5th graders play hockey on a weeknight. After much back and forth, the game ended in a tie. On the ride home, I asked my son what he enjoyed most about the evening, assuming it would be focused on the fancy arena or the final score of the game. His answer? “That Coach Matt believes in me. Did you see how he put me out there at the end? He put me in to try and help us get that final goal.” No mention that he didn’t score, or that the game ended in a tie. But rather, the confidence that his Coach believes that he is “the guy,” when it matters most.


Bottom line? Make sure you have a believer. Someone there to push you and help you be your best. Get yourself a Coach Matt.


Take pride in your “why”

Having a clear sense of purpose is one of the best ways to push through adversity and doubt. For sure you will have people throughout your career telling you aren’t good enough, or someone else is better. That you aren’t the right fit for the role or that another agency brought in better ideas. Those are the perfect moments to stop and ask, why am I doing this? Only to be the best? Is it my ego in trying to show others that I am the best? Or are you doing it because you really love it? There will always be someone faster, stronger and smarter, but what are you good at? What are you bringing to the table that is meaningful and unique? I asked my son after tryouts, are you only playing hockey to play on the A-team? Is that why you love it, simply to tell people you are on the A-team?


He has now spent the last six months finding and celebrating his why. His why is a love for playing the game. It’s the delight in making a great play with his teammates; it’s learning the grit it takes to come back from a loss; it’s knee hockey between games in a hotel conference room in Brainerd; and it’s a fist bump from Coach Matt.


It’s about holding your head high, and bringing the passion, drive and determination of a strong B. Sounds like a good Podcast to me.