Lessons for the Transition: Coaching Penguins

Last year we won one game. Out of sixteen.


But it’s not about wins. At least that’s what a good coach will tell you. It’s about coming together as a team that makes the experience so rich.

For the second year in a row, I’m the head coach of my daughter’s soccer team, The Little Lake Grange Penguins. And I’ve never had so much fun!

It’s not because we’ve won our first five games of the season, but because I get to shape the experience of being a part of a team for these five, six, and seven-year olds. The lessons learned, the camaraderie, and the fun are special treats that come with playing on a soccer team.

Part of the appeal is that when I was six my life was well, like many of my friends, unstable. But I could always count on sports and my teammates to be there for me. Some of my teams were terrible. Others were great. But it was always fun and a way to experience being a part of something bigger than myself. My teammates counted on me to do my best. And I counted on them to do the same. And over time, we developed trust and respect for each other.

I was active in organized soccer, basketball, and baseball from six through eighteen so this team stuff was a huge part of my life. In fact, I remember my last basketball practice as a senior in high school as one of saddest days of my life. Leaving the gym for the last time I was emotionally destroyed. Basketball was a consistent presence Monday through Friday, 3:30 – 5:30, October through February for four years. Summers too.

It was a group of guys working toward a common goal and just trying to get better. And to say goodbye (as there weren’t any college basketball scholarships being thrown my way) was more than just not playing a game anymore, but it was saying goodbye to the steady presence of tribe.

Ever since then, I’ve consciously and otherwise strived to find situations where I could be a part of a something.

The companies I worked with early in my career were built around team success. Whether that was hitting team sales goals or raising money for a new hospital. I’ve learned that it’s easier, and more fun, when you feel like you have a teammate by your side.

That’s what drives the way I’m building Radiant Tribes. I mean, yeah the word, Tribes is powerful. Being a part of a group of people that are connected to common goals is a base instinct. And through our services that’s what we help our clients do. We help them build and engage a team, or tribe, so that their message can radiate out into the world. In addition, we connect our clients with each other so they don’t feel like they are by themselves as they go about transforming their business.

Connecting with tribe is important right now because so many of us feel alone. We feel separated from each other. We feel separated from the earth. We’re feel separated from our politics and our government. We don’t feel like we have much control. The world is spinning so fast and there’s not a lot to hold onto.

Part of the larger transformation we’re going through includes human beings recognizing, and acting upon, this innate desire to connect. Being a part of a tribe is a very real way to feel that connection. And to feel like we’re not alone is, well, a step. A step toward creating a society based on we vs one based on me.

Penguins dog pile the author after a game.

The other lesson, and key for both kids and adults to apply during this transition, is that six and seven-year old soccer-playing-kids are completely in the moment. There’s a purity that I get to “be” with during games and practices. I’m running sprints with them, doing the passing drills, encouraging them. It’s awesome. We’re totally in the now and shaping our experience together. There’s not near as much of the self-judgement or worrying what other people think when compared to “mature” adults. It’s all about right now and creating together.

These lessons are valuable because they provide clues to paths forward not only for our team, but for business and society in this new connection based economy.

Learning to trust one another and losing ourselves in the moment.  Whoa. I mean, that’s all we really need, isn’t it? Losing ourselves in the present moment is (actually) how we find ourselves, and it’s how we learn to understand common goals and what group support, or tribe, means.

Thank you, soccer.

I look forward to your input. Please share your experience with tribe and your questions in the comments section below or email me.

About IanFitz

Ian Fitzpatrick is the founder of Radiant Tribes and host of the podcast, Radiant Sessions. When not helping organizations create the new economy he enjoys daily walks with his brown dog, Abby.


  1. Ian,
    Nice article. I resonate with you about sports. My regular sports growing up and the support I received from a few key adults and from my team mates helped me navigate a difficult time of my life.
    Sports are still fun, but now being part of a tribe of people who are working together to make a difference in the world is very important and satisfying. I’m glad to be a part of Radiant Tribes.

    • Thanks, Jed.

      And I totally agree. Sports are super fun and I miss playing. However, the life skills and insights are totally transferable to, as you say, making a difference in the world.

      I’m glad to be on your team.

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