I recently watched part of a series on the Medal of Honor recipients. The commentator mentioned that of the 40 Billion that have served our country, only roughly 3600 have ever received this award. The man honored in the show that I happened to see was named Sargeant Sylvester Antolak. His actions in WWII helped our forces eventually take Rome, one of the first major Axis cities to fall. This man and his fellow soldiers were pinned down by the enemy fire behind a wall. Instead of staying where it was safe or trying to retreat, Sergeant Antolak ran right into a spray of enemy bullets, taking three large round hits over the 200 yards that he covered. Each time he was hit and knocked to the ground, he would pull himself up and then run toward the bullets again. Even with a shattered humerus in his right arm, he continued to carry his machine gun and shoot as he ran. He eventually led his group to overtake the enemy and secure that area. The soldiers with him reported that even the German soldiers were in awe of this young man’s actions as he refused to quit. Later that same day, Sergeant Antolak lost his life as he continued his heroic deeds pushing forward deep into the enemy territory.
As they interviewed other Medal of Honor recipients on the show, one of the common themes I noticed was that none of them wanted to talk about what they had done, but they only wanted to talk about their friends or about what they had accomplished together. Even when receiving their accolades, each one deferred to those that had fallen and those that had fought along side them as if what they had done individually was not as important as their group and the mission. This attitude is exactly what I noticed when writing the book Perfect: The Building of a Championship Culture. The young men and the coaches of this magical team were and still are humble and mindful only of the team as a whole as if talking about the individual achievements was somehow not as important. Today, they have a bond of friendship and unity that has remained steadfast through the twenty years since their incredible year. This bond and their unity were so compelling that even the radio broadcasters of the championship game decided to name the Darlington Tiger team as a whole as the “player of the game.” Even they understood that these players worked and bled alongside each other and as one coach put it, “They checked their egos at the door.”
Read about their journey together and how the staff and players were able to find the intangibles that elude so many others.
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