by Don Yeager
Players on the Monmouth Hawks bench react during the game against the USC Trojans at HP Field House. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
First, a Monmouth Hawk basketball player slam-dunks a basket on the court and the crowd’s attention immediately turns to…the bench! There, two backup players lift another player—who forms a basketball hoop with his arms—by the waist, allowing a fourth bench player to dunk an imaginary basketball through the makeshift hoop. The Monmouth bench collapses from the dunk, and the crowd goes wild.
This circus of team support (and ridiculous fun) is Monmouth basketball: The greatest sideshow in all of sports. (Just watch this video!) Already this season the Hawks have upset the UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but it is the Hawks’ choreographed bench celebrations that have become viral sensations…and a great lesson in supporting roles.
Lee Williams, my Greatness partner and a part of my writing team, spoke with the Monmouth Hawks a couple of weeks ago and walked away with three great takeaways:
1. Great teammates know their role and celebrate it.
The mini-celebrations began organically during the Hawks season-opening overtime win against the Bruins. After the win, the Hawks’ bench collectively realized just how powerful their support had been. Additionally, the public response to Monmouth’s stunts was so popular that the players decided to replicate them to generate enthusiasm…and help the team win.
And win they have. Thanks to a culture of support, the Hawks are off to their best regular season in years.
The lesson is crystal clear for any team desiring to be great: Every team member has a role and it is important to keep them all enthusiastically engaged—from the starting-five to the bottom of the depth chart.
2. A culture of celebration can boost camaraderie.
Monmouth’s celebrations are more than just fun, but are now also an important leadership piece to the organization’s culture. Sophomore guard Dan Pillari is the leader of the bench group and organizes “bench meetings” with three other members the night before games—whether in a hotel or dorm room—where the group plans out the celebrations beforehand, writes the stunts on index cards and practices them. The entire practice has the full support of the team’s coaching staff and the Hawks best players (those actually scoring on the court!) have endorsed the hi-jinks.
“During a timeout, we’ll listen to the coaches and then, when we go to our seats, we’ll look at our card to see what celebration is next,” Pillari said in an interview with USA Today.
Aspiring winners, take note: The greatest leaders are often those that empower others, not necessarily those in the spotlight. By creating a strong support system, your background leadership may be more impactful.
3. Positive energy feeds success!
Monmouth—and its over-the-top celebrations—are such a hit on the court due to the passionate workplace environment and team energy. Collectively, the team says that the key to developing this culture lies in every player bringing positive energy every day to support the team’s greater interests.
This is a fascinating anecdote from which any professional team can learn. Like many great teams, the Hawks understand the value of the supporting role and how it can create a winning organization. Most of the attention in the world goes to the superstars—the highest-sales employees or LeBron James—and truthfully, not all of us can be stars. But it’s still important to know how we can best contribute our teams.
As we embark on 2016, examine your team. What are the areas that can be improved with creativity and energy? Don’t stop there. Have your own “bench meeting” to engage your team members with passionate enthusiasm and support in the areas that need it the most. Your leadership could be what makes all the difference in your team’s success in the New Year!