Recently I was invited to a mini-reunion of the 1970 Longhorn football recruiting class. After the event, I wrote to all participants the following :
Thanks for your gracious hospitality and for including an "outsider" into the fellowship reunion of the 1970 recruiting class. You and your teammates managed to take my little piece of the puzzle from the 1967 recruiting class and for a short time weave it into the 1970 puzzle. As the "Odd piece out" I got great joy in listening to all the stories and watching the interactions and dynamics of men who during 4 short years of their lives formed special friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
The Rest of the Story Follows
This sport was chosen because most of us can still play, compete, and not get hurt in this tournament. Well- unless you are Dan Adams who popped a blood blister throwing a horseshoe. You can't make this up!!!
Spanky was needed for this "serious" injury.
Dick Baird wrote an article in 2003 that adds clarity to why a teammate bonds survives a lifetime. Dick’s full article can be found on Google, but for the purpose of this article I have focused on his comments related to bonding.
The bonds of sport can last a lifetime
Sun | Sports
Dick Baird — Oct 23rd, 2003
Nothing like a win to cure all your problems. Washington coach Keith Gilbertson and the Huskies finally put one together, and it was oh, so sweet. Lots of excitement, energy and emotion rolled into a big victory. That's what it's all about.
Or is it?
Years from now, that win will be forgotten. Years from now, all those people in the UW program will realize the experience was really what it was all about -- sort of like it's not the destination, but the journey. Along the way, a mutual investment in emotion will create bonds that last a lifetime.
Dick says "Just last week, I got a chance to spend the day with a couple of old teammates. Lots of stories retold and lots of heart involved. Friends forever, held together in the bond of football brotherhood. College roommates as well as survivors of a "Junction Boys"-type football experience."
It happens in all sports. Teammates are for life.
Tongue in cheek Dick says "Obviously, we all are better players now then we were then. That's part of aging; you get to embellish as the years go by."
"Football has an incredible bonding aspect to it. It absolutely demands an emotional investment. This is what makes it such a powerful force in character development as well as sacrifice. You never question anything about each other. It's an understood respect. This is my teammate. We will always be on the same team."
"Sure it was only in our college days, but for us, and a lot of other men, those days will last forever. In our last season together, we only won two games. But those wins came against Idaho and Washington, and they were the last two games of the season. A season from hell ended with a taste of victory and lives on today."
"A bond is created by all team sports. And what's really cool is that nowadays women get to experience the same feelings. When I was in high school, there were hardly any women's sports."
"It's funny that our educational system considers athletics "extra-curricular," when in fact it's one of the greatest learning experiences there is."
"Every time I go to a reunion, it is my teammates that I'm most anxious to see. It's a bond that lasts forever, and it is why I'll always be honored to be called Coach."
End of Dick Barids Article
Running unopposed Dan Adams wins the All Sports Award for best all-round athlete
The Road to Mark’s hunting Ranch
Team bonds add clarity to a life journey that is filled with complicated roads we must navigate to reach our career destination. As in all Longhorn recruiting classes college ends and careers and families begin. Everyone grows up and all drive on different roads to reach their destiny. It is not an easy journey for most of us. Symbolically our career paths mirror the road to Marks Hunting Ranch. This road is full of one lane bottlenecks that slow our career path. Dirt roads full of bumps, rocks, and crevices that must be crossed carefully to maintain career momentum, and creeks that flood at the untimeliest moment to stop all progress.
For many reasons many of us are unable to navigate this road and our chosen destination is changed by destiny. I can only think of Dennis Ladd when I think of someone who left U.T with great dreams to only to be held captive by many health issues. Some, but not all, were caused by football injuries. On his road many of his teammates pooled funds to financially help him. Money helped reduce his worries about losing his home, but it did not cure his problem- nothing will. There is only so much a teammate bond can do. Dennis knows that he must travel the remainder of his road alone. He has replaced his dream with a personal war to survive. Horns up for Dennis!
However, If you make it past all of these obstacles, you will find for a moment in time a safe haven. A ranch house where all who enter can for a moment forget the obstacles of the present and celebrate the past.
Psychologist for decades have tried to quantify how team bonds can create these safe havens. The answer will never be determined by empirical data. The safe haven team bond is a complicated formula that includes trust, honesty, sacrifice, collaboration, cohesion, communication, and synergy. All of these elements were present at the reunion of the 1970 Longhorn football recruiting class.
The guest list included doctors, lawyers, businessmen, home builders, Ranch owners, accountants, tour directors, restaurant owners, oil men, and retirees. As professionals, all of these men have made this world a better place. For the last 47 years these men have built bridges to the future to make it easier for others to cross.
Above is world class doctor Mark Akins whose professional speciality preempted medical assistance to anyone invited to this event.
But on this outing all professional titles were left at home and teammates celebrated the construction of a bridge made of special memories to the past. It was a time for all invitees to savor the years 1970 thru 1974.
All told great stories, but one story captured the narrative needed to understand how team bonds begin. Eric Sorensen a Jesuit scholar tells a story about directing a difficult canoeing trip. He said “It would rain for days , everything would be wet, your gear wet, your clothes and” nothing would dry and everyone was miserable. It was not a fun trip. Sorenson said that what he wanted to accomplish on this trip was a sense of deep connection between the paddlers. He accomplished his goal.
Dan Adams and Bob Tresch lived this same type of adventure on a three day canoeing trip down the Guadalupe. For some reason Dan and Bob forgot that canoeing the Guadalupe during rainy season was not a good idea. It was a miserable trip. The story told around the campfire that night was hilarious. I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt.
For me this story captures the reasons teammate bonds last a lifetime. Dan and Bob shared a struggle, survived the adversity, and in the process learned more about each other. This is the essence of how all team bonds begin.
Team sports require what Dan and Bob experienced but with many more complicated levels to create a lifetime team bond.
The teammate bond is complete when the respect of a team member is earned.
Teammates share victories, losses, workouts, fellowship, sorrow, pain, and joy together. These interactions create the bond that last a lifetime. Respect for each other remains years after the glory days in sports have ended. 47 years later on March 10, 2018 at Mark’s Hunting Ranch I witnessed a bond that will last a lifetime.