on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

The Value of Teamwork

This post is the fifteenth in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.

As I have written before, my father and I shared the love of sports.  While he was a basketball and football star in college at Samford University, I attended Clemson University in South Carolina on a scholarship as a defensive back and started most of my time there.

Throughout my life, my dad and I talked about the value of teamwork.  When I would have a good game at Clemson, he would also point out how our defensive line played particularly well that day, or how one of our linebackers had a great game too.

In other words, while he affirmed my play and was a great encourager to me, he also made it clear that I, nor any of my teammates, were individually responsible for how well, or how bad, we played as a team.  It was a team effort.  Win or lose, we all contributed to wins and losses.

You can’t take the total blame for the games you lose,” he would say.  “And no one person wins the game for the team either, regardless what the fans think.”  He was right.

And the lesson of teamwork spilled over into my vocation as well.  He would remind me years later when a church I was working in was growing and people were excited about things happening, to be thankful for it and to recognize the efforts of all of the persons involved.

A few years later, I went through a particularly hard time in one church where I was an associate pastor.  There was a small, vocal group of people in the church who were very critical of the senior pastor.  They blamed him for everything.

Dad and I talked about it on several occasions and I remember him saying, “Malcolm, the senior pastor is like the quarterback, everybody wants to give him all the credit and all the blame, but that’s just what the ‘fans” think,” referring to the church members.

“Never criticize a teammate to others.  Be careful about listening to people who criticize your teammate to you.  Just by listening, they may assume you agree with them and tell others the same,” he added.  The latter part of that advice was wise counsel.

Now I know many years later, that “team” refers to many contexts.  My work, my family, and many other areas of my life are about teamwork.

In fact, broadly speaking, the whole human family is a team.

It’s just that we have a lot of fans who are sitting on the sidelines blaming the quarterback and the teammates.  Don’t listen to their criticism of the human family team.  We are all responsible for the wins and losses.  If you win, I win.  If you lose, I lose.  We’re all in this together.

My father taught me so.


Where have you discovered teamwork in your life?  What lessons have you learned?

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  1. Jan Painter

    Malcolm, I love reading your stories. Your love and admiration for your Dad and the way you express your feelings is awesome! I wish I had your writing ability. Please, keep writing!

  2. Rob Henderson

    I can hear the late Red Auerbach from the Boston Celtics saying Amen to this one….another completed pass for your wonderful writings….

  3. Malcolm

    Rob, yes, you are right. Red Auerbach wouldn’t have any trouble signing off on the team first statement. Always good to have your comments.

  4. Lee Bolin Osborn

    I’ve so enjoyed getting to know both you and Bro. Marler more after all these years. I love the photo…the Malcolm I remember & especially your dad’s leisure suit!!!

  5. Malcolm

    Lee, thanks for the comment on the photo. It was back in the days when I had hair and sideburns, and my father’s leisure suit was snazzy in the 70’s!

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