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No one has it all, but together we make a team

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore our understanding of the importance of teamwork.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.


Leader: If you were putting together an athletics team for a local championship, what type of athletes would you require?

Reader 1: I’d start with a fast sprinter. Wed need plenty of speed.

Reader 2: But wed also need a distance athlete with stamina as well as speed.

Reader 1: Then theres a jumper.

Reader 2: High jump as well as long jump. We may need two.

Reader 1: What about the throwing events? Upper body strength is just as important.

Reader 2: And the most difficult of all, the pole vault. Speed, strength and gymnastic ability.

Readers 1 and 2 together: How can we find such a variety of skills and abilities?

Leader: Its actually very easy. Turn up at Hexham in Northumberland on 24 and 25 August and youll find yourself at the twenty-third International Combined Events Meeting. Athletes from all over the world will be competing in the decathlon, heptathlon and pentathlon multi-events competitions. Individual athletes will compete against each other at sprinting (sometimes over hurdles), jumping (high and long), throwing, distance-running and pole-vaulting. Each athlete must deliver a score in every discipline or risk disqualification. These are multitalented individuals. A team in one person.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there arose a concept in Europe known as ‘Renaissance man’. It denoted an individual (always a man in those days) who was highly gifted and competent in a wide variety of skills. These could include painting, science, politics, literature, fighting - the list was endless. A good example would be Leonardo da Vinci, who was a painter, scientist, engineer and philosopher. A twentieth-century example of a Renaissance man would be Sir Winston Churchill, who was not only the political leader of the UK during the Second World War, but also a gifted artist and writer.

Do we have any Renaissance men or women among us today? Its not unusual within a school to find individuals who are gifted academically, talented musically or dramatically and also captain of a sports team. We can probably all make our nominations. But thats on a local level. When they step outside our town, our county or even internationally, I think that their gifts in some areas will be put into a different perspective, even when they do excel in one.

Conversely, do we have anyone here who thinks they have no talent at all, in anything? I guess there will be many of us who assume that we fit into this category. We are the opposite of Renaissance men and women. We believe that we have little to contribute to the world and will never be a great success.

Time for reflection

Id like us to think for a moment about teams. Although some activities are definitely for individuals, its generally recognized that most of the time, we can achieve superior results if we work in a team. A team brings together technical skills, interpersonal skills, physical strength, emotional strength, imagination - the list is as long as the number of members of the team. Each person in a team has something to contribute. Those who have limited intellectual ability may have physical or emotional attributes. Some will be fast starters whereas others will be persistent plodders who ensure that we reach the end. One person cares about the team members and their relationships, another is driven by the task in hand. Team skills are infinite in style and number.

Jesus was a team-builder. He chose a team of 12 people to surround him. We call them the disciples, but there were many other people who travelled with him, too. When Jesus sent them out on teaching and healing missions, he sent them out in pairs. He knew that teamwork was better than being Renaissance men or women!

St Paul pictures the early Church as a team. He uses the image of a body to describe this team. One person may be like the eyes, another like the ears or the nose. One may be like a hand, another like a foot. No single part of the body can function on its own. Only as a team will the Church survive and flourish. The same is true in a school setting - we can only flourish together.

We each belong to many teams. Some are formally organized, such as subject classes. Others are informal, such as friendship or interest groups. Today’s suggestion is that we avoid two errors. First, we should never assume that we can complete the whole decathlon on our own. We are not Renaissance people. Second, we should never assume that there is no point in us taking part. We simply need to discover exactly what our contribution might be. And guess what? We all have an important part to play!

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the individuality of each one of us.
Remind us of this as we form teams for the activities offered to us.
May we never overestimate or underestimate the contribution that each of us can make.


‘We’re all in this together’ from High School Musical, available at:

‘It takes two’ by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston, available at:

Publication date: August 2019   (Vol.21 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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