These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Singing for the Unsung Hero

In every team, in every club, in almost any organisation, there are always people who come to be known as "stalwarts". It's a bit of an ugly sounding word, but its meaning is far from ugly. A stalwart is someone who is loyal, particularly over a long period of time, and is able to be trusted. These are the people who can be counted on in terms of reliability and hard work. Often, they are the people who have been there the longest and have seen out the highs and the lows and remain resolute supporters. Others journey through a club, for example as emerging talent, flourishing around the club stalwarts, then move on to higher and greater things. These are the lads who donate their shirts to the club, framed and with a signature. To find the stalwarts, you often have to consult the club's record books.

I always like to have a look at the photographs in club houses as I've travelled to different grounds. I look for two groups of people. The stars who have emerged from humble beginnings and those who are the club record holders - those who feature in every team photograph over a prolonged period. They are the foundations around which teams and clubs are built. Often, they are the unsung heroes, known only to those who they have helped or supported, coached or mentored.

Every team needs stalwarts who are the central spine around which teams are built and around which the emerging talent flourishes.

Recently, I decided to have a look at the number of appearances some longstanding players had made for particular rugby clubs. Starting with my old club, I discovered that there was one stand out player who had made a staggering 571 appearances. That has to be some kind of record. Unless the team were desperate for players or unless he was the chairman and held the purse strings - there has to be no other reason than total consistency for a player to sustain a position in a team for that long. It is remarkable. A stalwart.

Yet the most remarkable thing about this particular player is, outside of the club and perhaps the immediate local community, nobody would recognise his name. Yet for me he is one of a band of stalwarts that are the unsung heroes of the sporting world. But we should celebrate the unsung hero. Without them, lack of continuity would undermine cohesion and eventually the culture.  In many large organisations, the movement of people across the business operates at pace and is seen as a way of hot-housing or fast tracking key people. With such rapid turnover, few stay around long enough to establish process and to carry the accountability that attaches to responsibility. Often, accountability is left to the stalwarts. Those people often seen as the overlooked or the plodders. These are the people who need to be celebrated.

The headline in a New York Times article at the turn of the last century said this "the unsung heroes of the engine room". The article went on to describe how the stokers and the engineers of a large, stricken passenger vessel kept the boilers at full capacity and the power supply on, whilst the vessel was engaged in a rescue mission. Eventually they capitulated to the power of the sea, but without them others would have perished. Unsung heroes. Stalwarts who could be counted on for their reliability and hard work. The great writer of much of the Bible's new testament, Paul observed in his letter to a group of people in a province called Galatia "if we don't become weary in doing good, not giving up or quitting, we will bring in a great crop just at the right time" - Paul was encouraging people to keep going, to be and to become the stalwarts in their community, in the group of people that were gathering. The same is true in family, in serving other people, in businesses and in churches.

Everyone is looking for success in whatever sphere they are operating. Without the unsung heroes, they may have success for a period, but the presence of stalwarts, those whose names may never be know or whose shirts are never framed and hung on the wall - is one of the key ingredients of moving from being a successful club, team, business, church to being one of significance. Stalwarts are the carriers. Not just of the ball up the middle of the park, but of the vision and the drive. Sure, look for the portraits, the photographs, the signed shirts and representative honours and lets celebrate, but lets also give a big shout out and have a song ready for the men who make 571 appearances.