#UltimateTeamMoment – Ultimate Software's Blog http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Tue, 18 Jul 2017 10:00:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 An #UltimateTeamMoment That’s All About Putting People First http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ultimateteammoment-thats-putting-people-first/ http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ultimateteammoment-thats-putting-people-first/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:00:18 +0000 http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=885 Today’s #UltimateTeamMoment is a testament to teamwork, and what it means to truly care about others and put them ahead of yourself. Learn how a group of top American athletes came together—some even sacrificing their hard-earned spots—for a standout luge relay performance, ultimately earning Team USA’s first team relay medal in world championships history. Ultimate […]

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Today’s #UltimateTeamMoment is a testament to teamwork, and what it means to truly care about others and put them ahead of yourself.

Learn how a group of top American athletes came together—some even sacrificing their hard-earned spots—for a standout luge relay performance, ultimately earning Team USA’s first team relay medal in world championships history.

Ultimate Sacrifice, Ultimate Teamwork Led USA Luge to Relay Silver Medal

Three athletes gave up their relay spots to veterans at the world championships, and it paid off.

By Greg BatesTeam USA luge

A relay in any sporting event requires the utmost teamwork.

What three world-class Team USA athletes did at the 2017 FIL Luge World Championships on Jan. 29 in Igls, Austria, was above and beyond the definition of teamwork. And their actions even led to a silver-medal performance.

In order to determine a U.S. relay team—which includes a singles man, a singles woman, and one doubles team—USA Luge picks the fastest racers from earlier in the world championships.

Erin Hamlin, a three-time Olympian and Olympic bronze medalist, had easily punched her ticket to be a member of the relay team after a gold in the sprint and silver in the singles competition. The three slots for the men were up for grabs.

Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk clocked the fastest doubles time out of three U.S. sleds to earn a spot on the relay team. Taylor Morris logged a career-best fifth-place finish in the sprint, tops for U.S. men’s singles athletes, to get his position in the relay.

What Krewson, Sherk, and Morris did next was truly honorable and entirely unexpected. Krewson and Sherk gave up their spots to veterans Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, and Morris passed up his chance at the team relay to allow Tucker West to compete.

The move was an ultimate team decision.

“I thought it was a remarkable show of sportsmanship,” said Mark Grimmette, the USA Luge sports program director, who competed in five Olympic Games. “It shows that they think of the team before themselves.”

Morris said he made the decision immediately and didn’t consult with Krewson or Sherk.

“I finished the race and hopped on the truck to head up to the start and change out of my sliding gear,” said Morris, who would have raced on his first international relay team. “While on the truck, Tucker and I discussed the team relay spot, and I offered the position to him right then and there.

“It wasn’t a hard decision for me as I knew exactly what had to happen to put the best team on the ice.”

West, who has won two world cups this season and was on two medal-winning relay teams, initially told Morris he wouldn’t accept the relay spot.

“He said, ‘No. You earned the spot, so you race the event,’” Morris said. “And this took me by surprise. But, in all honesty, he was still upset about how his world championships had gone and just needed time to reset and realize how important his participation would be for the team.”

Terdiman was out to dinner with his parents when he received a text from his doubles teammate Mortensen saying the duo was going to be racing in the relay.

“I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” said Terdiman, who placed 11th in doubles at the Sochi Games. “This was the biggest race of the year, and the boys had rightfully earned the spot. It took me a few minutes to accept that they were giving us the anchor in the relay.”

Terdiman said he and Mortensen had been clocking top-five finishes as a doubles team all week, but had just a couple bad runs late in the championships. Terdiman felt added pressure to do well in the relay race, since his teammates graciously gave up their spots. He said it’s the most nervous he’s ever been for the start of a race in his career.

Hamlin led off the relay and recorded the third-fastest run time for women. Up next was West, who shook off previous rough races to put the Americans in first place by 0.4 seconds heading into the doubles portion of the race. Mortensen and Terdiman had a great run to help the team clock a track relay record time of 2:08.664.

There were still four teams remaining to compete out of 15, so a medal wasn’t guaranteed. The Germans relay ended up with a time of 2:08.474 to nab the gold. But the silver belonged to the Americans.

Bringing home second place proved to Morris that he made a wise choice to give his spot to West.

“It gives me validation in the decision,” Morris said. “But even if he hadn’t done well I would have known the decision was the right one for the event at hand.”

It was the first team relay medal earned by Team USA in world championships history.

“They did a great job of setting aside their disappointments in their individual events to give a medal-winning performance in the team relay,” Grimmette said. “We also have to remember that Tucker, Matt, and Jayson had an enormous amount of pressure on them as they did not want to disappoint their teammates who gave up their spots so they could race. They came through not only for themselves, but also for their teammates.”

Terdiman has a close relationship with all his teammates, but what the group went through at the world championships will only tighten their bond on and off the track. Terdiman was elated he could be a part of history capturing the silver medal.

“There are no words,” Terdiman said. “It was pure happiness—not just for us, Erin, and Tucker, but for the entire team. It was Taylor, Justin, and Andrew as well. I’ve never been more proud of a group of individuals. It’s an honor to be on this team.”

Greg Bates is a freelance writer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who has covered Green Bay Packers games for the past eight seasons. He has been a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org since 2010 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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More Than #UltimateTeamMoment for U.S. Under-18 Women’s Ice Hockey http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/more-than-ultimateteammoment-for-u-s-under-18-womens-ice-hockey/ http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/more-than-ultimateteammoment-for-u-s-under-18-womens-ice-hockey/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2017 19:56:33 +0000 http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=844 The latest victory for the U.S. under-18 women’s ice hockey national team marks more than just an #UltimateTeamMoment for this group of elite athletes—it’s part of an entire team experience. In today’s article, learn about the long-standing rivalry among some of the United States’ and Canada’s most gifted young hockey stars, and discover how Team […]

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The latest victory for the U.S. under-18 women’s ice hockey national team marks more than just an #UltimateTeamMoment for this group of elite athletes—it’s part of an entire team experience.

In today’s article, learn about the long-standing rivalry among some of the United States’ and Canada’s most gifted young hockey stars, and discover how Team USA’s collaboration and camaraderie isn’t just limited to the ice rink.

Ultimate Team Effort Drives U.S. U18 Women to Another Hockey World Title

By Scott McDonaldUltimate-Team-Moment-1200x1200-women-hockey

The United States-Canada rivalry in women’s ice hockey starts when kids become old enough to play for their respective countries, said Alex Gulstene.

“Kids on both teams want to play for their country,” Gulstene, the goalie for the U.S. under-18 women’s national team, said. “I want to play against Canada, and I want to beat Canada winning gold.”

That’s exactly what happened for Gulstene and her American teammates Jan. 14, at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship gold-medal game in Zlin, Czech Republic. Team USA scored twice in the third period to down Canada 3-1, marking the third time in a row the Americans defeated their northern rival for a U18 world title.

The effort took more than a strong goalie like Gulstene.

It’s more than sharpshooters like Grace Zumwinkle, Cayla Barnes, and Natalie Heising.

It’s defense, penalty killing, and power plays.

It’s bringing together a team that comes from all over the country, from New York to Alaska and Minnesota to Texas, and everywhere in between.

It’s the ultimate team experience.

“It can be difficult to jell, but we all have a common goal in mind,” said Gulstene, who had 27 saves in the game. “We start building as a team from the first camp all the way until now.”

Gulstene said team bonding comes from the whole experience, including dinners, road trips, the long flight to the Czech Republic, playing games at the hotel, and hanging out in the foreign country.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together is up to the coaching staff, led by U18 coach Joel Johnson. He takes different personalities and playing styles, and he melds them into one cohesive unit in a very short timeframe.

“We’ve mixed some things up like the line combinations and the penalty-kill set,” Johnson said. “They get used to their teammates quickly, and we just ask the girls to trust the coaching staff.”

The Americans navigated their pool play round by going 2-1, with a 6-1 win over Russia and 4-0 win over Sweden. Canada defeated Team USA 1-0, but both teams got a first-round bye into the semifinals to set up a rematch in the final. The United States actually defeated Canada with matching 3-2 overtime wins in the two previous championships.

The teams played a scoreless first period before Delaney Drake put the United States ahead 1-0 off an assist from Clair DeGeorge on a power play.

Canada tied the game midway through the third period, making it look like the teams would go to overtime for a third-consecutive world championship game.

“We were up 1-0 and playing well, but when you have a goal lead you tend to play more defensively,” Johnson said. “Grace Zumwinkle scored, and that kind of turned the tide for us.”

Zumwinkle’s goal to make it 2-1 also came off an assist from DeGeorge. Emily Oden iced the game with an empty-net goal with five seconds remaining on the clock.

“We got better as the game went on,” Johnson said. “Our players continued to work hard, and good things started to happen for us.”

Gulstene said winning gold is a dream for a crop of athletes striving for moments like these, although she was a little nervous before the game began.

“There were some nerves before the game for sure,” Gulstene said. “When it came down to it, the puck dropped and we were ready to play.

“This means everything. It makes all the early mornings, the late nights, and 16-hour drives to tournaments worth it.”

The team trained in New Jersey and took in a professional hockey game as part of their bonding experience. Gulstene said the team would celebrate with their families and teammates at the hotel, and then start looking toward their futures. For some, that might mean a shot at the PyeongChang 2018 or Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

“Making the national team isn’t something we talk about, but I know we have some players who are certainly thinking about it,” Gulstene said.

Johnson said though he might have some girls who could compete, what they’re doing now is preparing them for further down the road.

“The national team is very deep,” Johnson said. “Where our girls might not be ready to be evaluated for the next Games, there’s the possibility of four years, maybe eight years away. And that’s what we’re getting them ready for.”

 

Scott McDonald has 18 years’ experience in sports reporting. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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U.S. Sled Hockey Squad Credits Chemistry in Creating Its #UltimateTeamMoment http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/u-s-sled-hockey-squad-credits-chemistry-creating-ultimateteammoment/ http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/u-s-sled-hockey-squad-credits-chemistry-creating-ultimateteammoment/#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2017 14:09:09 +0000 http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=823 Today’s #UltimateTeamMoment is all about team chemistry, and how young players and accomplished veterans have worked together to achieve victory. The U.S. sled hockey team has won six consecutive international tournament titles, dominating on the ice since the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Team USA credits the incredible chemistry among the athletes for its consistent […]

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Today’s #UltimateTeamMoment is all about team chemistry, and how young players and accomplished veterans have worked together to achieve victory.

The U.S. sled hockey team has won six consecutive international tournament titles, dominating on the ice since the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Team USA credits the incredible chemistry among the athletes for its consistent success.

Read more below about the squad’s path to Paralympic prominence, and what’s ahead for Team USA.

With Blend Of Vets And Youngsters, U.S. Sled Hockey Squad Proves To Be Ultimate Team

Team USA has won six international tournaments dating back to the Sochi Paralympics.

Team USA Sled Hockey Ultimate Team Moment

By Stuart Lieberman

The U.S. sled hockey team ended 2016 by becoming the first program to win three consecutive championships at the World Sled Hockey Challenge.

For Team USA, the win was also the program’s sixth consecutive international tournament title dating back to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Arguably, no team in Paralympic sport has been as dominant over the last two years as the U.S. sled hockey program. So what makes these guys the ultimate team? The players credit their unbelievable team chemistry.

“The team chemistry since I joined a decade ago has increased tenfold,” three-time Paralympic goaltender Steve Cash said. “It’s not to say we didn’t have some chemistry back then, but now you’ll see 17 guys working in true harmony, and back then there was a little disparity between the two groups—veterans and young guys. That cohesion is something we don’t take for granted, and without it we wouldn’t be the kind of team that we are right now.”

Whereas Canada, Norway, and Korea strained to keep their young players on par with their veterans throughout the World Sled Hockey Challenge, the Americans relied on their youth to power them to the top once again.

In Prince Edward Island, Canada, earlier this month, Team USA took total control of the tournament, outscoring its opponents 27-4 over five games, with 19-year-old Declan Farmer and 18-year-old Brody Roybal combining for 13 of those goals.

The top line of Farmer, Roybal and Kevin McKee—formed shortly after the Sochi Games, when Josh Pauls shifted to defense—has been playing together for nearly three years and now functions like clockwork. Some U.S. players, such as Cash, and former U.S. player Taylor Lipsett, are even deeming the trio the best line to have ever played the game.

“I think we’ve just grown up a lot,” Roybal said. “In Sochi, we were only 15 years old. Just growing up, getting bigger and the experience of being on the team for three years now has brought us to a whole other level.”

By no means did Team USA coast its way through another World Sled Hockey Challenge, though. The first couple practices were “rough” according to Cash, and it took an overtime period for Team USA to beat Canada 2-1 in the preliminary round.

“At the beginning of the tournament, it felt like it took us a little longer to get settled in, but once we did we got rolling,” said Cash, who backstopped the winning side for three of the team’s games, allowing just three scores and posting a 0.921 save percentage. “The more we worked together, the more chemistry we built.”

In the championship game, Team USA found itself down 1-0 during the first intermission thanks to a goal by Canada’s dual-sport athlete Liam Hickey. U.S. coach Jeff Sauer entered the locker room and told every player to look at the teammate to the right, to the left, and across the room, and to remember who they were all representing when they returned to the ice.

Sauer certainly righted the ship.

The U.S. team erupted for five goals in the second period, outshooting Canada 10-2, with Roybal scoring two of those goals and Farmer another one to help the Americans claim the 5-2 victory.

Farmer finished the tournament as the leading scorer for the third-straight World Sled Hockey Challenge. His 17 points were a new record for the most points by a U.S. player in a single World Sled Hockey Challenge, and his eight goals tied Nikko Landeros for the most goals in a single edition of the tournament.

At this point, with four months to go until the next world championships and just over a year until the next Paralympics, Sauer has just one critique for his top line.

“We don’t shoot the puck enough, as we’re always trying to go for that picture-perfect goal,” Roybal said. “He says we always like to try to be too fancy out there. The one critique he gives us is to just put the puck on the net, because you never know what could happen.”

Just imagine if Roybal and Farmer shot the puck more.

The U.S. sled hockey team—the reigning Paralympic, world, and Pan Pacific champions—could be even more dangerous.

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

 

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U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team Earns Gold in Emotional #UltimateTeamMoment http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/water-polo-team-earns-gold-ultimateteammoment/ http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/water-polo-team-earns-gold-ultimateteammoment/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:50:53 +0000 http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=667 The U.S. women’s water polo team earned its second straight gold medal after defeating Italy 12-5 in Rio. But it’s what the players did after their victory that’s truly inspirational. Find out in the latest #UltimateTeamMoment story below, brought to you by Team USA and Ultimate Software, and stay tuned for more great moments from […]

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The U.S. women’s water polo team earned its second straight gold medal after defeating Italy 12-5 in Rio. But it’s what the players did after their victory that’s truly inspirational.

Find out in the latest #UltimateTeamMoment story below, brought to you by Team USA and Ultimate Software, and stay tuned for more great moments from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Ultimate-Team-Moment-1200x1200-water-polo

Spurred By a Coach’s Hardship, U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team Earns Second Olympic Gold
By Nick McCarvel
Gold medals secured, the U.S. women’s water polo players did the unthinkable minutes after collecting their long-coveted Olympic prizes: Gave them away.

Not to anyone—and not for long—but following Team USA’s domination of Italy 12-5 in the gold-medal match Friday inside Olympic Aquatics Stadium, earning the Americans a historic second straight women’s water polo Olympic title, the 13 members of the team went to head coach Adam Krikorian one by one and put their medals around his neck.

Krikorian, who left Rio for several days after the team had arrived earlier this month because of the death of his brother, couldn’t help but be emotional. This wasn’t the biggest prize to him, however: The last seven years as head coach have provided that.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” said Krikorian, who has been head coach since 2009 and has led the U.S. to 13 gold medals in its last 16 major international championships. “I’m not going to say that it doesn’t make your heart warm, but to me it’s the daily interaction and the relationship that this team has built that means more. There’s no medal that’s going to prove that to me. What is more important is what’s in my heart and in my mind.”

“We wanted to make sure that he got the medals as well,” said captain Maggie Steffens. “Because coaches don’t get them, and he deserves them.”

What the U.S. deserves is a spot in history, as it further cements itself into the water polo record books. The program becomes the first women’s water polo team to win back-to-back golds (or multiple golds at all) at the Olympics, the sport having been added in the year 2000. Team USA has medaled every single Games since then, as well.

Italy had been the last team to defeat the Americans, when it did so last season at the world championships in group play. The U.S. has won 22 games in a row since then, including the gold medal victory on Friday.

It is the ultimate prize for what has become the ultimate team in this sport, the Americans losing just a handful of games since the 2012 London Olympics, though only four players from the team returned for the Rio Games: Steffens, Kami Craig, Courtney Mathewson and Melissa Seidemann.

It was a first Olympic gold for goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, who in Rio had become the first black woman to represent the U.S. in Olympic water polo.

“It’s incredible. It’s so amazing to be able to share this with my family, my friends, and my coach,” said Johnson, who had transitioned from competitive swimming to become a water polo player and is the lone American on the U.S. national team that is not from California. “I didn’t have any expectations. This feels like I thought it would, I guess.”

Is this the best women’s water polo team of all time? They went 6-0 in Rio and outscored opponents 73-27 overall. Krikorian thinks perhaps.

“I think you could make an argument, a strong argument,” he said, noting the 2012 team was rather deep, as well. “This team has done some special things. The way we’ve done it, going into this tournament I was concerned because we hadn’t played any close games.”

Friday, eight players total scored for the U.S., including the first five goals coming from different players: Mathewson, Kiley Neushul, Craig, Makenzie Fischer and Rachel Fattal.

“That’s been a theme for us this entire tournament,” Krikorian said of the goal-scoring.

Italy kept things close for the first half, however, Roberta Bianconi scoring for the Italians with less than a minute left in period two to cut the American advantage to just 5-3 at the break.

But that is when Team USA started distance itself against an Italian team that was allowing just over six goals per game in Rio. Fattal scored less than a minute into the second half, then Neushul again just over two minutes later, as well as Seidemann and Steffens in the third quarter.

Johnson added a brilliant save on an Italy penalty shot and the U.S. had a 9-4 advantage heading into the fourth. From there, they sprinted across the finish line. Johnson saved nine of 13 shots on goal throughout the game.

“We dominated that game—there is no better feeling,” said K.K. Clark, one of four players on the team with UCLA ties. “We train against each other every day and we’re able to put that work into our games. We’re humble enough to know that we can be beaten, but also confident enough to know that we can take on anyone in the world.”

Seventeen-year-old Aria Fischer becomes the youngest U.S. Olympic water polo medalist in history, as well as the youngest women’s water polo medalist from any country. Teenagers on the team also include Maddie Musselman and Aria’s older sister, Makenzie.

After the final horn blew, the U.S. coaching staff was pulled into the water by the team, soaked from head to toe in their official team shirts and dress pants. As the crowd thundered with “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants, the Americans gathered in the middle of the pool for a celebratory huddle.

It was later after the medal ceremony that the women donned their medals around Krikorian’s neck, something the 2012 team had gotten the idea to do after reading Duke (and Team USA’s) basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s book, The Gold Standard.

Krikorian’s mind turned to his brother as the final minutes of the game ticked down, nearly forgetting to sub in his reserves as the U.S. had a safe seven-goal lead with less than four minutes left.

“I was just thinking about my brother, thinking about how hard this journey has been,” Krikorian recalled of that moment. “It hasn’t been easy.”

But Steffens, the team captain, gladly shared her medal with him four years after the 2012 team had first done so, and the team posed for dozens of snapping cameras on the pool deck in celebration, all 13 medals hanging on Krikorian’s neck.

“To know that Rio had a happy ending for him, and that we could leave that pure joy in his heart in such a time of heartbreak, it means a lot to us,” Steffens said. “We love and respect him greatly.”

And what did it mean to Krikorian? He found the light side of all that heavy hardware hanging off of him.

“It means that my neck hurts,” he told reporters. Laughter ensued.

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Another #UltimateTeamMoment from the 2016 Summer Olympics http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/another-ultimateteammoment-from-the-2016-summer-olympic-games/ http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/another-ultimateteammoment-from-the-2016-summer-olympic-games/#respond Thu, 21 Jul 2016 13:50:21 +0000 http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=639 Ultimate Software and Team USA have teamed up to bring you Ultimate Team Moments from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Read below for the latest #UltimateTeamMoment, profiling two athletes looking to sail their way to gold, and check back throughout the summer for new stories. Synergy and Experience Could Guide Dave Hughes and Stu […]

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Ultimate Software and Team USA have teamed up to bring you Ultimate Team Moments from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Read below for the latest #UltimateTeamMoment, profiling two athletes looking to sail their way to gold, and check back throughout the summer for new stories.

Ultimate-Team-Moment-1200x1200-F

Synergy and Experience Could Guide Dave Hughes and Stu McNay to Olympic Glory, presented by Ultimate Software

The 470 sailors could be Team USA’s best hopes for an Olympic gold medal in Rio.

By Karen Price

Sailors Stu McNay and Dave Hughes had just finished the 2012 Olympic Games in London—McNay as an athlete and Hughes as a coach—when they knew they had a chance to do big things in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but only if they became a team.

The onetime competitors now head to Rio as one of the United States’ strongest chances for a medal in sailing.

“We are ready to put out an excellence performance,” said McNay, 34, of Boston. “We continue to focus on the process—recognizing that we have what it takes, but also capturing the learning, open mind daily to always strive to be our best, which is slightly better than the previous day. We will stay true to that process.”

Both men knew each other well before they joined forces racing in the two-man 470 class. In addition to racing with each other in other boats on larger teams, they were each other’s primary competition for Team USA’s 2008 Olympic berth in the 470 class. McNay and teammate Graham Biehl would edge Hughes’ boat with Michael Anderson-Mitterling for the coveted spot.

McNay and Biehl returned to the Games racing in the 470 class in 2012, and Hughes went as a coach in the 49er class, another two-person boat. Team USA returned home from London without a medal in sailing, however, and out of that disappointment Hughes and McNay hatched their plan for a different result in Rio.

“After the 2012 Games, we both realized that we still had a great deal of competitive fire left in our tanks,” said Hughes, 38, of Miami, who also went to the Olympic Games as a training partner in 2004. “Our Olympic journeys were not meant to be over. We first sailed together in the fall of 2012 and have been a team ever since.”

Immediately, the partnership felt like a new lease on their Olympic lives, Hughes said. The chemistry and communication between the two were strong right away.

“Most importantly, we shared a similar vision of how to get to the top of our discipline,” McNay said.

The new team soon established itself as Team USA’s top boat in the class. Their accomplishments now include six world cup medals, including three wins, a European championship title, a North American championship title, a European championship bronze medal, and a South American championship title on the Rio Olympic course.

Experience helped, McNay said, as did their shared vision of their path and potential pitfalls and their work with coach Morgan Reeser. They share enough in common that they work well together and believe in the process they’ve agreed upon, he added, but there are differences between the two that also help make them the ultimate team.

“Dave has a tireless work ethic and also excitement about optimizing our boat,” McNay said. “I spend a little more time on personal well-being, mental and physical. We have been able to learn from each other and round out our game from this balance because the boat and ourselves both must be fine tuned to a world-class level.

“We both approach the sport in a cerebral way, but also harness our intuition. It’s been useful to develop this highly personal balance as team and with each other’s guidance and reflections.”

No team is without its challenges, of course, and McNay said although one of their strengths is their cohesion, he and Hughes have had to work to find the life-work balance with which many elite athletes struggle. Discovering the perfect ratio of training, racing and off time is the holy grail for any athlete, Hughes said, and with a two-person team that calibration is doubly critical.

In a sport such as sailing, where the playing field is constantly in flux, teammates must be completely aligned with one another on many levels.

“Sailing rewards athletes who perform as one,” Hughes said. “Competing in synch with your partner throughout all physical moves is the baseline. However, mentally synching with your partner creates the real standout performances. There is something seamless and smooth that happens when all is done right. It’s clarity in focus and a complete ‘same page’ execution.”

As the Olympic Opening Ceremony draws nearer, McNay and Hughes are spending most of their time on the water in Rio getting to know the venue as best they can. Being considered the United States’ top hope for a sailing medal is, on one level, a wonderful position to be in, Hughes said, but it’s not something that’s on his mind.

“What is on my mind is being the best teammate to Stu as possible while striving to deliver my best personal performance,” Hughes said. “In doing those things, I know we will get the most from each other and that result will be rewarded with an Olympic medal.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

 

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Ultimate Team Moments — All This Summer from the 2016 Olympics http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ultimate-team-moments-summer-olympics/ http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ultimate-team-moments-summer-olympics/#respond Fri, 15 Jul 2016 14:03:01 +0000 http://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=629 The 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games are fast approaching, and soon, extraordinary athletes from across the globe will strive for gold. But much like in business, great success in sports often comes from great teamwork. That’s why Ultimate Software has partnered with Team USA to bring you the Ultimate Team Moments from the 2016 games. Throughout […]

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The 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games are fast approaching, and soon, extraordinary athletes from across the globe will strive for gold. But much like in business, great success in sports often comes from great teamwork. That’s why Ultimate Software has partnered with Team USA to bring you the Ultimate Team Moments from the 2016 games.

Throughout the summer, we’ll share special reports from the Olympics that highlight America’s greatest competitors in several sports—from sailing to volleyball—and capture their personal stories of perseverance, triumph, and, most importantly, teamwork.

Below is the first in our series of Ultimate Team Moments, brought to you by Ultimate Software and Team USA.

Ultimate Software has partnered with Team USA to bring you the Ultimate Team Moments from the Rio games.

U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team Shines As a True Unit, presented by Ultimate Software

By Stuart Lieberman

Five years ago, Micah Christenson was featured in Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Faces in the Crowd” as a dual-sport athlete from Honolulu who led Kamehameha-Kapalama High School to both volleyball and basketball state titles in his senior year.

He was raised by his father, Robert, and mother, Charlene, who played basketball and won three volleyball national championships, respectively, at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

So by the time Christenson graduated high school, he had more knowledge and experience when it came to leading teams than many athletes do by the end of their careers.

Playing with poise and resolve, the 23-year-old setter will now be a vital part of the U.S. men’s volleyball team competing at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, where he’ll make his Olympic debut. Christenson was one of 12 men named to the team last month following a four-year selection process. The team is made up of two Olympic gold medalists, four returning Olympians and eight newcomers.

“To realistically say I thought this was going to happen at such an early age or just happen in general, I didn’t think it would,” Christenson said. “Being here on the Olympic stage, it’s pretty surreal.”

Christenson is by no means a standout star, though, and the squad does not have a poster face.

Rather, the squad is a conglomeration of parts—an ultimate team—that will look to jump back to the Olympic podium after finishing fifth at the London 2012 Games.

The U.S. men are No. 5 in the FIVB world rankings and will compete in Rio in Olympic Pool A, which also includes world No. 1 Brazil, No. 4 Italy, No. 10 France, No. 10. Canada and No. 24 Mexico.

Having qualified for the Games by winning the 2015 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup, Team USA has had ample time for its players to mesh into cogs that make the wheels go round.

“The buy-in from everybody is contributing to an ultimate team idea,” Christenson said. “It’s really easy to get results-oriented or be angry at other players or yourself or at how the team is doing in the moment. But I think we’re very good at seeing the process and the big picture of where we’re trying to go, and we’ve all bought into the same journey.”

Christenson is the youngest setter to have ever competed for the U.S. national team, having started at the senior level at age 20, and he now plays professionally in Italy. He said he’s among the new batch of players who have “made waves in their first, second, or third year on the national team,” to help prevent a void from developing between the squad’s veterans and newcomers.

Leading the way on the veteran side are outside hitter Reid Priddy and middle blocker David Lee, who were both members of the Beijing 2008 Olympic gold-medal-winning team. This will be Priddy’s fourth Olympic Games, tying him with Lloy Ball for most Olympic appearances by a U.S. men’s volleyball player.

Middle blocker David Smith, readying for his second Olympic Games, has been helpful in building that bridge between the younger and older players to keep the team unified.

“It’s kind of strange to think of myself as one of the older guys. I think everybody on our team splits the leadership role,” Smith said. “This team has been in the making for several years now. Everybody feels like they have a voice and can speak up if they see something—from every player to everyone on the coaching staff.”

Smith was born nearly deaf and relies on his teammates to annunciate their words so he can read their lips and calls on the court. He knows as much as anyone how important team collaboration and communication is.

“We’re united and focused on what we want to do,” Smith said, with just a month to go before the team heads to Rio.

“You should always have an appreciation for the guy on your right and the guy on your left, because you’re in it together for the long run. If you dread hanging out together, it’s going to make for a long summer.”

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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