co-written by Jennifer Lee
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This is the first post of three regarding Team Dynamics and Team Roles during a Star Course event. To read the second posting, Team Roles, click here. To read the third posting, Being a Good Teammate, click here.
If you've done a GORUCK Challenge, you know they are significant tests in teamwork, but the Star Course takes it to another level. Star Course is teamwork on steroids. You don’t have a Cadre who tells you what to do the whole time or where to go. You’re given a list of waypoints, and it’s up to you and your team to figure out how to accomplish the mission. During those 20 hours, you will be tested physically and mentally on an individual level, and you will be tested overall as a team. There will be difficult times. There may be differing opinions about what to do at times. How will your team deal with those challenges?
FORMING YOUR TEAM
You might have known the members of your team for years, or you might be meeting the team in person for the first time at dinner right before the event. Regardless, there are a few things the team should consider prior to the start of any Star Course.
Whether you are building a team, or whether you are looking for a team to join, it is important to identify your goals as a team before you get started. One of the decisions to be made: is the team going for a fast time, a top-3 finish, or any kind of finish? This is key because there could be different skill levels of ruckers on a team and the expectations of the team should be known from the beginning. Make sure that you’re aligned on a target pace range.
Also think about whether the team is a group of people that you won’t mind spending 20 consecutive, sometimes trying, hours with. Is this a group that you will enjoy being around? Does your team consist of a group of people who will be able to work together when there are difficult circumstances? When there is a decision to be made, is your team able to quickly come up with options and then take decisive action?
There will be intense moments during any Star Course. Sometimes team members need to listen to music or go to their “happy place” for a bit. Pay attention to your teammates and work together through the dark moments. Let’s not forget – Star Course is incredibly fun, too, when you have a good team.
Are your potential teammates' people that you can rely on to put in the necessary training and Star Course-specific preparation? When everyone is tired at mile 35, can you count on them to mentally and physically power through the fatigue and keep moving? When you’re struggling, can you count on them to help you, and can they count on you to do the same?
Each team has its own personality and will handle the course differently. What works for one team may not necessarily work for another team. Be confident in the choices the team has made, and do not start letting other teams mess with the choices yours have made. With that said, if whatever your team has been doing isn’t working, then it is up to the team as a group to figure out how to adapt and adjust.
Here are some decisions that should be made prior to the event:
- Route Preferences (long stretch, first vs. last)
- Pacing and Break Strategies
- Support Crews (see upcoming post for ideas)
- Team Gear (see upcoming post for ideas)
No one wants to drop, but the issue of how the team is going to handle drops needs to be discussed. This is a hard conversation to have but is a necessary one. Drops can be medical drops, but potentially performance dropping a teammate is a legitimate topic. Should you? Shouldn’t you? There should be an agreement put in place prior to the event that determines what to do if one team member slows down to a pace that means the team will not finish.
Some team members might know when to drop because it’s best for the team while others will not want to drop and will have to be asked. Always assume at first that a team member needs the motivation to get through a dark moment, but having had this conversation upfront and honestly prior to the event should prepare all team members on how to handle this. The team needs to know everyone else’s expectations.
WORKING WITH OTHER TEAMS
Even though this is a “race” type event, consider the other teams. Other teams can be useful sources of information. For example, one team gave information to another team that saved them at least ¼ of a mile on a steep hill. The only thing asked in return was to pass that information on to the next team to hopefully help someone else. Offer to take pictures for one team and reciprocate. Ask teams where they have been and if they have found anything tricky. Contact other teams through Instagram and encourage them. Just because this isn’t one big team like a traditional GORUCK event doesn’t mean that your team can’t still be a team player and encourager.
Finishing the 50 mile Star Course and earning the patch is a great feeling. Having done it with a team that helped you through it, and that you were able to help along the way, makes it 100x more rewarding. The bonds forged through fire are the strongest, and what you’ll get to experience with your team at the Star Course is something you’ll never forget. Find a solid team. Figure out your plan. Be a good teammate.