Cooperation & commitment

Keri Strug

When working in a group, each individual plays an important role in the effort to achieve a common goal. A team or group functions better when all its members practice cooperation. Sometimes, however, the individual’s goals and the team’s goals can conflict.

The following story demonstrates how one gymnast sacrificed her individual goals for the benefit of her team.

Keri Strug, an American gymnast, competed in the Olympics in 1996. During the team competition, Keri sprained her ankle as she landed a vault. As she limped to the vault runs, she turned to her coach and asked him, “Do we need this?” The answer was, “yes.” It was a very close competition and, in order for the US women’s gymnastics team to cinch the gold medal, Keri had to complete her second vault.

Keri vaulted and landed on both feet for barely a second before jerking her sore ankle off the matt. She saluted the judges standing on one leg. Keri’s successful completion of the vault won the gold medal for her team, but left her injured and unable to compete in the individual competition, even though she had qualified.

Keri demonstrated both courage and a commitment to her team when she pushed beyond her limits for the benefit of the team’s goal—the Olympic gold. Her moment—her vault landing—is considered one of the most inspirational moments in Olympic history.

Cooperation is an important character trait, but sometimes cooperation isn’t enough—that's when commitment comes into play.

"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their field of endeavor." —Vince Lombardi

Going further: Exploring cooperation & commitment in groups