Tournament Tips: Learning from Adversity

By: Robin Flachbart, Team Manager, Alabama

In my last Tournament Tips blog post, I talked about ways in which you can plan for success at your upcoming Destination Imagination (DI) tournament. Now that we have discussed planning, let’s look at the other element of tournament success: attitude. Tournaments involve competition, and every team wants to win. But it is important to keep in mind that long-term success isn’t always indicated by a ribbon or a medal. I emphasize the importance of the long-term benefits of the DI process: learning to plan and execute complex projects, learning to work with others despite personality differences, learning new skills, learning to perform in front of a group or speak to a group with poise and confidence, and learning how to gain and cultivate friendships. Those things last long after tournament day is over.

If you manage a team long enough, you will have one that encounters adversity. The key to dealing with adversity is encouraging the team to shift their focus from a negative to a positive frame of mind. One of my previous teams encountered almost every type of problem imaginable during a performance. They had trouble with setup, costumes, forgotten lines, a back drop that came crashing down during the performance, and they did not finish before time was called. They were horrified and embarrassed. I took them to lunch afterward and we discussed what happened. They had chosen to increase the complexity of their storyline and sets that year. I applauded them for challenging themselves, for that is truly when growth occurs. I asked them what they thought went wrong, why, and how could they take steps to deal with the challenges they faced. At the end of the discussion, they had formulated a plan going forward and were very optimistic and eager to make improvements after the tournament. Their next performance was amazing!

When your team encounters adversity, remind them that DI is about learning how to creatively deal with complex problems and solutions. Remind them of everything they have accomplished during the season including the challenges they overcame and the new skills that they learned. Encourage them to troubleshoot the situation and formulate a plan for the next time. Often, a troublesome performance can result in creative solutions that make the solution even better than it would have been had they not encountered problems with the performance. If they are at the end of the DI season, encourage them to think about what they want to accomplish the following year. The key to overcoming adversity in DI is a change in attitude and a choice to learn from mistakes instead of dwelling on them. Even when things do not go as well as we would like, we once more have a priceless opportunity to teach the students valuable life skills.

About the Author:Robin Flachbart is a five-time DI Team Manager with the Alabama Affiliate. She is an aerospace engineer working as a NASA contractor and also pursuing History and Art History degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She is also a huge fan of STEAM!

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