53 Playing As One- Teambuilding NFL Style


September 2, 2009

I want to talk to you about a team. 

A team hoping to be a success story.

A team in need of a different approach to teambuilding.

As the summer days begin to turn cooler and school starts up again, you know that football is just around the corner.  We’re almost through the pre-season games and teams are doing all they can to prepare for the season.  But before I can talk about the 2009  NFL season, I need to tell you a story about a team.  A team that was 3- 13 in the 2007 season.  A team that struggled with coaching, injuries, and other issues and tried to be optimistic for 2008.  A team that not only did not do better, they actually did worse.  They ended the 2008 season with a 2- 14 record.  This team was beaten not only by their opponents, they were beaten mentally by themselves.  There were coaching changes and players lost.  The team even lost it’s owner to a battle with breast cancer. 

Who is this team you wonder?  The St. Louis RamsRams

Living in St. Louis, I love to support the home team.  We have had many fun years since the Rams’s first moved here.  The years of “the Greatest Show On Turf“, 1999- 2001, were exciting years to live here and watch Rams football.  1999 was an amazing year when the team won Superbowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans.  But as the years passed and players and coaches changed, so did that winning attitude. 

We now have a new coach, Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants for two years.  The fans are excited and hopeful.  Coach Spagnuolo came in with a bang and made some really noticeable changes. He brings a high energy level the Rams had lost.  He also made the team go “live” starting on day two of camp- they were hitting in full pads- and while that is not a standard approach to camp, it seems to be a change that the team needed.  The other interesting thing Coach Spagnuolo brought to the team is the motto “53 Playing As One”.  This permeates everything in Rams Park.  No matter where you walk in the building, all traces of individual player recognition are gone.  It’s all about the TEAM now.  They will all be working together toward the same goal.  They will win together, they will lose together. ONE TEAM.  It is a novel approach to a team that has touted individual players for years.

I’m anxious to see how this plays out for the Rams this season.  I’m also excited to see a strong approach to team building and team success.  If you have a dysfunctional team in your company, maybe the approach should be to move away from individual successes and really encouraging and celebrating team success.  I’m already thinking of how this can be encouraged at my firm.  How about you?  Think it would work?  Why or why not?

53 as 1- Rams


  • I’ve always been a big team guy, all that Army training and what not. Cultivating pride in team can be very rewarding, but does come with some caveats:
    -Teams unite first under shared hardship, whether it is two a days in football or basic training in the army, you have to break down the individual before you can build the team. HR abhors allowing anyone to experience hardship.
    -Team loyalty can make it difficult to transition people from one team to another. In sports we’ve seen the results of this in moving from a team mentality to a mercenary mentality. It’s easy to get someone on board with their team, and it’s role in the company, but team pride often means that when they compare their team to others, the others will never measure up.
    I preach team work in my group, and believe I have a strong team. We focus on who we are high level (the company) first to avoid some of the issues noted above.
    Great post Trish!

  • Leadership style is so important, and if the Rams perform well, much credit will be given to the approach of the new coach. But so many factors are involved.
    At a key time of team development I happen to read a book “A Force of Ones” by Stanley Herman. Teams are important, but what are they made of? Talent. Even a well-structured team environment needs talent. It may not need the strongest talent, or the record-setters, but it still needs individual contributors who believe in themselves as well as the team.
    The challenge isn’t just in getting the idea of 53 as 1 across, but in helping individual performers maintain their identity in the process.
    I’ve been part of many projects and thus, many teams throughout my career. There are precious few teams that I could look at and say I would work with any one of those individuals again in a minute. That’s a great team!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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