A warrior group pauses their presentation preparation for a group photo

Those “Special” Teams

Everyone remembers that “special team” that broke down barriers and defied expectations. In 1980, a collection of collegiate hockey players took down the 5x olympic champions of the Soviet Union. The Purple People eaters set the tone of performance in the NFL and made it to four super bowls. The US Women’s National Soccer Team has been the team to beat for the past decade. These teams are special because they are unique in one regard. It is their ability to create what so many teams miss, community.

Warriors, Htoo and Eric, discuss stories of growth in their lives.

On a cool Saturday in late October, young leaders comprising myriad backgrounds and experiences came together to create their own version of a special team. During the Launching Leaders retreat, a kick off event for the 2019-2020 Warrior Leadership Academy, high schoolers engaged in a series of workshops and activities to build trust and community. These high schoolers represent each of the SPPS high schools (and several schools outside the district) and have a desire to play tennis at the highest levels.

“This experience has truly impacted my life in the most positive way possible. It was great meeting everyone in this community and learning what we do here. I absolutely look forward to everything we have in store this year.”

Warrior Testimonial

Community as a Key Ingredient

Creating community is an essential component to Warrior Leadership Academy (WLA). The standards are high and it takes a committed community of passionate individuals to achieve them. In Minnesota, access to indoor court time and quality coaching is the biggest gap between the top performing players and their less resourced peers. WLA seeks to challenge this deficit this by placing resources like court time and quality coaching into communities where they are less prevalent. But it doesn’t end there. More than court time and coaching, community is the key ingredient in overcoming our shared obstacles. Warriors dream bigger and work harder because they belong to a community of young people who do the same.

Coach Johnny shares his stories of struggle, triumph, and “fighting for joy”

Seeds Planted Through Shared Vulnerability

At the retreat, Warriors engaged in a variety of team building and reflection activities to open their understandings of who they are and who they are seeking to become. Coaches shared their stories of tribulation and triumph, showing that live does not end at our worst moments. Warriors appreciated the vulnerability and many expressed that coaches stories helped validate their own experience. It is quite the thing to know you aren’t alone.

Break the ice, plant the seed, watch our community grow.

As we work toward our status as a “special team” this year, having this space to connect to one another through story and shared experience will be a key factor. Communities aren’t a result of dumb luck, they precipitate from synergy and common purpose. Warriors understand this. We won’t know the fruits of our labors for a while, but the seed has been planted… and we feel pretty confident that big things are coming for our community.

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