Teamwork key for our success

Even though my husband has been eating Paleo (carbohydrate free) since March?and in effect I am as well?there?s something about fall that makes me want to bake.

So Sunday evening found me in the kitchen whipping up a batch of apple streusel muffins to eat alongside

As with almost all baking projects in the Just household, there is plenty of extra help to go around. The older my girls get, the more they want to help. And that?s fine. I really love having company for cooking?a task I often find draining.

But our kitchen is small, workspace is limited, and I only have one bench to share between my two helpers. The bench, mind you, is plenty big for two little girls, but it has forever been a source of contention over who gets prime foot and counter space nearest the mixing.

So as this muffin story goes, I was dutifully measuring milk when all of a sudden pain shot up my left leg and my poor middle toes started going numb. Some?how daughter No. 2 had managed to flip the bench, hitting my knee and landing on my toes, and sent my girls sprawling.

I?m not one to cry often, but I had to fight to maintain composure this go around. My body started to go into shock to deal with the pain, but even so, I was aware that the culprit of the accident had run into another room crying.

I wanted to make sure she was OK, but I physically couldn?t do it. Through gritted teeth, I called for my husband, and he took over that role instead.

He had my back.

That?s something I?ve been thinking a lot about lately, and not just because my toe got smashed.

I?m privileged this season to be an assistant volleyball coach at Hillsboro High School. Even though I have two track seasons under my belt, coaching volleyball has been an experience all its own.

I spent a lot of my growing up years playing on a team. From sixth grade through my sophomore year of college, I practiced, sweated and competed with a team. I learned skills of varying degree from all my coaches, and worked to execute those fundamentals in every game.

I always wanted to do well, and I always wanted to get better.

But learning skills and executing them isn?t nearly all it takes to be an athlete. Deciding to participate in a team sport means having each others? backs. It requires putting extra emphasis on having concern for what?s going on outside of individual performance.

And that?s not always easy.

I remember my own coaches speaking on the importance of team?of working together?despite differences of talent, opinion and experience.

Learning to put selfish ambition aside for the sake of a team is probably one of the hardest lessons of being an athlete.

Of being human, really.

It starts young, with the newly acquired word ?mine? in a toddler?s vocabulary. Selfish ambition manifests in bossyness on the playground when desire for a certain activity refuses to yield to ideas of others.

It can rear its ugly head in the workplace, in a marriage, within friendships and in the church.

The good news is that working together is attainable. I?ve seen proof not only on the volleyball court, but also in the community around me.

We might get our toes stepped on?or a bench might fall on them?but as long as someone has our back, success is just around the corner.

Malinda Just can be reached at

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