The Lost Art of "Sweeping the Shed"
How is it that the tiny island country of New Zealand with a population of just under 5 million people can produce the winningest professional sports team in the world? The All Blacks, the kiwi national rugby team have a lifetime winning percentage of 77%, which is unparalleled in any professional sport. Why? In my coach’s and Christian opinion, it is because they practice ‘sweeping the shed’ both literally and figuratively, on and off the field.
What is ‘sweeping the shed’ exactly? This is an attitude made popular by the All Blacks that characterizes humility, servanthood, and merit. And just to be clear, it is the opposite of entitlement and equity. These professional, well paid, elite athletes take the time to thoroughly clean the locker room at both home and away games with the goal of leaving it better when they arrived. Post-game, they are exhausted, beat down, bruised and many times bloodied, yet still find the strength to honor and serve each other, the facility, and themselves by humbly scrubbing, wiping, and sweeping the locker room until it is spotless. (Do you know how many tiny blades of wet grass and mud make it into the average locker room after a rugby game?) How does this translate to the field? These fierce (and they are fierce if you have ever seen them play… or even warm up for that matter…can you say, Haka?) competitors play to win but never sacrifice their character in doing so. Their attitude is, as I honor and serve my teammates, trainers and coaches, we all win. I am not in it for myself or personal glory. I am owed nothing. I am grateful for this opportunity. I know that it can be taken away at any moment. My part, no matter how small, is vital to my team’s success. As my brother succeeds, so do I.
Jesus modeled ‘sweeping the shed’ when He washed his disciples’ feet. We are talking the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords washing (a servant’s job, mind you) the filthy and smelly feet of his 12 disciples, his last day here on earth. If that isn’t humility, love and servanthood, I do not know what is. He even tells us, after he is done washing, in John 13:15-17, I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Sadly, in a world of entitlement and equity, ‘sweeping the shed’ is somewhat of a lost art. I am grateful for the All Blacks, one of the few living examples of it still out there. I am also proud to say that Trinity athletics, although not the biggest nor the best has done an amazing job in training up our student athletes in this same attitude. (ever meet a TCS athletic alum?…quality! In fact, I have one as my assistant coach this soccer season!) In TCS athletics, we focus on character, developing humble young men and women that love God, and each other. It can be as simple as helping a parent carry stuff to the car without being asked, picking up trash that isn’t theirs, making a beautiful pass so that a teammate can score a goal or basket, or helping up an opponent that fell down on the field. In the giving, loving, and serving, there is a sense of victory even if the scoreboard says otherwise. (wow, it’s like the cheesy T.E.A.M acronym is true, Together Everyone Achieves More). As Jesus promises “you will be blessed if you do them,” and just like the All Blacks, we are blessed. We may not be at their unprecedented 77%, but as the humility and serving grows, the skills and the wins come, as my dearly departed friend (and TCS coach and parent) Greg Tamaye used to say, “automatic!”