Six lessons for your team. Love from, The Raptors

The Toronto Raptors have captivated the hearts of the country with their playoff run and NBA final win. We can all learn from the Raptors and apply their unique approach to team-building on the teams in our own lives. Here are six take-aways that can be applied to your team.

1.     Strong athlete leadership.

A team leader doesn’t have to be the team superstar. They should be the person who gets the team going on and off the court. If you’ve ever seen the player introductions at a Raptor’s game and witnessed captain Kyle Lowry’s epic pre-game ritual you’ll agree he is a leader through and through. As he comes on the court, each player does something to cheer him on: push-ups, dance moves and elaborate high fives.

It’s electric.

Lowry carries the same energy on the court and to the bench - always intensely supportive of his teammates. Last week head coach Nick Nurse commented,

“I just think that, it was a good portion of this season, the majority of it, where he was as incredible off the floor and in the locker room as he was on it. He was so fun to coach.”

On your team: Who are the leaders? What do they do to create a positive environment?

Kyle Lowry Introduction

Kyle Lowry Introduction

2.     Respect the bench.

The Raptors showcased how a team can run with more than the starters. Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet were difference makers coming off the bench providing a significant impact on the outcome of games for the team.

On your team: How are the non-starters treated? Are they given opportunity to contribute and feel valued even in important games?

3.     A team is bigger than the players.

Small forward, Kawhi Leonard’s load management injury recovery plan that had him sitting out large portions of the regular season allowed him time to heal. Consensus has been this intentional strategy eventually allowed him be a force in the playoffs, winning MVP. This decision making was a team effort between Kawhi, the president, the coach, the team’s medical staff and Canadian physiotherapist Alex McKechnie.

On your team: Who are the non-athlete members? Where are there gaps? Who can fill them?

4.     Care about your competitors.

I have a couple examples of this. During championship game three, trying to make a save, Lowry fell into the laps of spectators at Oracle Arena. A Warriors fan (later revealed to be a minority owner) shoved Lowry and uttered profanity. Lowry immediately approached officials who took the matter seriously and escorted the perpetrator out of the building.

We saw similar intolerance for poor fan behaviour in game five when Warriors superstar Kevin Durant had to leave the game after injuring himself. Some Raptors fans, caught up in the moment, started cheering. Like fans in all sports sometimes do, they had lost sight of the fact that the opponents are human. Raptors team members immediately motioned for the fans to stop cheering and helped Durant off the court.  This type of fan behaviour is not unique to professional sports. We’ve seen it in amateur sport. As discussed in our Super Fan blog a strong fan base can help a team but they need to understand when a line is crossed.

On your team: What systems do you have in place to show respect for your competitors? How do you manage fans who are disrespectful? Who’s responsibility is it to manage this issue when it comes up?

Kyle Lowry, Danny Green & Serge Ibaka assisting Durant after his injury.

Kyle Lowry, Danny Green & Serge Ibaka assisting Durant after his injury.

5.     There’s strength in diversity

From the president to the coach to each of the players, the Raptors are made up of an ethnically and culturally diverse group. Jeremy Lin who wore a Chinese Raptors Jersey in the victory parade regularly speaks about his pride in being Asian American. Pascal Siakam was sporting the Flag of his home country Cameroon shortly after stepping off the court during their last game. Serge Ibaka has a cooking show called How hungry are you? on YouTube where he cooks traditional Congolese food for his teammates. On any team, diversity inspires creativity, innovation and drive. The Raptors’ diversity is embraced by its members and represents the values of Canada perfectly.

On your team: What intentional actions do you take to honour and leverage the benefits of diversity?

Jeremy Lin, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka (Chef Mafuzzy) and teammate Kawhi Leonard

Jeremy Lin, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka (Chef Mafuzzy) and teammate Kawhi Leonard

6.     Be a role model

During his now infamous interview after championship game four, Kyle Lowry was asked by thirteen year old Arjun Ram:

"Mr. Lowry, how does it feel to be an icon all over Canada to kids?"

He responded:

“I was once a kid in your shoes and to be able to know kids one day will want to be like me I hold myself to a super high standard. I’m really professional about his business but at the same time still fun.”

The interview has now gone viral around the world. It has clearly touched a chord speaking to the universal values of mentorship and giving back found in sport.

On your team: Who looks up to the athletes on your team? How do you support your team’s role models to mentor them?

Thank you Raptors for the fun, the unity and the lessons!

Nadia KybaComment