What One Olympian Teaches Us About Teamwork (Hint: It’s Not About Medals, Pence, or Xanax)

Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon has captured the attention of many over the last couple of weeks. You are likely aware of one, if not several things, that put Rippon into the public eye.

To me, the one thing that truly stands out about Rippon isn’t the thing that garnered most attention…

It’s Not About Medals

Rippon didn’t medal. In fact, he came in 10th in the men’s figure skating final scores. I’m not knocking that. Tenth in the world is amazing, especially to someone like me that can barely stay upright on skates.

My point is simply that he didn’t create Olympic excitement like a Michael Phelps who earned 23 gold medal wins over the years.

It’s Not About Vice President Pence

Rippon caught the attention of many when he objected to Vice President Mike Pence’s pick as the head of the U.S. delegation to the Pyeongchang games. As one of two openly gay U.S. Olympic athletes, Rippon decided to use his platform to object to Pence and President Trump’s comments associated with issues of interest to Rippon.

It’s Not About Xanax or a Quick Drink

Upon finishing his free skate program, Rippon left the ice and went straight into an interview with NBC. In the interview, Rippon said, “I want to throw up, I want to go over to the judges and say, ‘can I just have a Xanax and a quick drink?'”

So What’s the One Lesson that Stuck with Me?

It’s His Decision to Turn Down an NBC Commentator Job

After he finished his Olympic events, NBC offered Rippon a commentator position. They wanted him to spend the remainder of the Olympics as a part of the NBC team.

“He’s emerged as a fan favorite, an athlete whose talent and personality shine through his skating — and whose sense of humor and humanity have been amplified by the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. But Adam Rippon says he’s not ready to move from the Olympic Athlete’s Village and join NBC.” (NPR)

While most would jump at a lucrative television job, Rippon turned down the offer. True, he may take a job later, but he’s willing to run that risk.

Why did he turn the job down?

Here’s what he tweeted.

He said, ‘no,’ because he was part of a team. He saw that his teammates were doing important work. He wanted to continue the supportive environment for them that had benefited him. So, he chose to see, because he felt he was needed.

Consider yourself and the the members of your team.

  • How willing are you and others to set aside a personal win for the betterment of the team? When was the last time it happened?
  • Do you have a collective sense of purpose that engages people and encourages them to bring their best? Or, do people see themselves as individuals out to take care of themselves?
  • Who is rooting for you? Who are you rooting for?

I wish you all the best as you bring victories to your team.