How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Opinion: The success of teamwork - on and off the court

Any basketball aficionado has got to be sad that the NBA season has come to an end, but also enamored with how the San Antonio Spurs played in the finals. They exemplified the kind of high basketball IQ that comes to mind when we think of the old Knicks teams of Red Holzman and Princeton basketball under Pete Carril.

Miami Heat star Chris Bosh was on the mark when he said of the Spurs, after the game, “They played the best basketball I’ve ever seen.” His teammate, LeBron James, concurred: “They were the much better team. That’s how team basketball should be played. It’s selfless. Guys move, cut, pass. You’ve got a shot, you take it. It’s all for the team, and it’s never about the individuals.” LeBron James is not only the best player on the planet, but he possesses an enormous amount of “basketball sense.”

Teamwork is the key to the Spurs’ success and is the prime reason they humbled the mighty Miami Heat. The Spurs are the best team in the league because they play the game the way it is supposed to be played — with consistency, cohesiveness and camaraderie. Basketball is supposed to be a team sport, not an individual sport like golf, tennis or boxing.

As we watch a mid-season NBA game, it’s often hard to remember that basketball is supposed to be a team sport. What we all too often see is two teams running and gunning, with a periodic isolation play to break the monotony.

While the Spurs have many players capable of being top scorers, during the finals, no player scored 30 points. Instead, they had lots of players who scored in low double-digits, because of the incredible ball movement that characterizes their egalitarian offense. We never see a Spur put on a mid-play dribble exhibition, with his head down, which is all to frequent in the NBA.

The Spurs’ offense eschews one-on-one moves as a scoring approach. Its key is moving the ball. It is rare that a player who originates a play is the one who scores. Instead, the ball is moved from player to player with the goal of producing an open shot. Time and time again, during the playoffs, I loved watching a player pass up a pretty good shot to give a teammate a better shot. It is the unselfish approach that basketball purists love.

The Spurs’ team defense is built on trust. It requires players to trust each other to be where they are supposed to be and do the unheralded work required to be good defensively. They take charges and they run and hustle from the opening whistle until the final buzzer sounds.

The Spurs reinforce the team concept by spreading the work around and using the entire roster. During the regular season, no player averaged more than 30 minutes on the court. Further, the Spurs led the NBA in bench scoring during both the regular season and the playoffs.

San Antonio destroyed the Miami Heat 104-87 in the June 15 final. With this victory, the Spurs reaffirm their status as a model franchise, having won more than 50 games for 15 consecutive seasons and having been in the playoffs for 24 of the past 25 seasons. There is no doubt that one of the keys to the franchise’s success has been Coach Gregg “Pop” Popovich, the longest active coach in the NBA and one of only five coaches to win five NBA championships. Over the years, he’s been able to adjust his team concept to the talent at hand and build the players into a cohesive unit.

The type of teamwork that enabled the Spurs to climb to the top of the NBA is unfortunately rare in today’s ultra-competitive world. It is sad, since intractable problems can sometimes only be addressed through teamwork. A recent example, drawn from my work with the nonprofit sector, comes to mind.

The Mercer Street Friends Food Bank’s Send Hunger Packing program had been funded for a number of years by a very generous company in the area. The innovative program provides meals to food-insecure children on the weekends. Funding was put on hold for a while so that the company could financially support some other very worthy causes.

The program was in real jeopardy. Along came the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). Children from seven Mercer County schools in Ewing, Lawrence, Trenton and Hamilton who are enrolled will be provided with nutritious meals to eat on the weekends during the upcoming school year.

The program is a true collaborative team effort. School counselors, nurses and teachers identify children in need, enroll them in the program, distribute the meal packs and maintain program records. Mercer Street Friends assembles and transports the food to the school. TASK provides the requisite funding to feed the children. Beginning in September, this team effort will provide 325 children with backpacks on Fridays containing two breakfast meals and three lunches/dinners. In addition, there information on good health and nutrition for the entire family will be included.

Basketball games can be won and extraordinary problems, like childhood hunger, can be mitigated by teamwork. Imagine what a little teamwork might achieve in Trenton or Washington, D.C.