When I was in my 40s, I was coaching youth soccer. I decided to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, by joining an over-30 adult soccer league. "Lead by example," I told myself.
As a recreational league, this over-30 group was fairly relaxed about the rules. We didn't have a coach. We didn't practice. We showed up and played the game. Substitutions were ad hoc. If a player wanted to be subbed for, he or she would raise their hand and a waiting player from the sidelines would just run on the field to take their place.
Fast-forward to the final game of the season. Due to schedule conflicts, we had only 13 players that day. 11 on the field and 2 subs on the sidelines. The game began. I was playing center midfielder. After some time, I noticed that no one had subbed yet. I looked over at my 2 teammates standing on the sidelines and thought, "Hey. It's the last game. Everybody should play. Even though I don't feel winded, I'm going to go off and let one of them play." I ran to the sidelines and allowed one of our subs to gain the field. Another of our players followed my lead. The two of us spent the rest of the game standing on the sidelines. No one else wanted a sub. Everyone else wanted to play as many minutes as possible.
Standing there for the bulk of the last game of our season was very frustrating for me and my fellow stranded sub. I kept thinking about how selfish most of my teammates were. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth, so much so that I didn't return for the next season.
In retrospect, deciding not to play again was short-sighted on my part. The lesson I want to take away from this experience is the affect it had on me. When we don't play in an inclusive fashion, when we don't allow our teammates to utilize their skills and contribute to overall success, we can create genuine dissent in the ranks. The key is to be genuine, doing the difficult work of matching skill sets to assignments. I'm not suggesting untoward charity here, as in giving the lead musical role to someone who can't sing a note. Find the place where the tone-deaf one (that would be me...) can thrive while contributing to our success.