Viewpoint / Company Building

What My Sports Movie Heroes Have Taught Me About Teamwork and Life

83 movie poster horizontal

As we get ready with the popcorn to watch the red carpet and the Oscars, where Oppenheimer is going in for the win, I got to thinking about sports movie heroes who have inspired me. Besides the hockey coach of Chak De! India, some include the boxer from Rocky (Eye of the Tiger is my anthem song); the father of Serena and Venus Williams from King Richard (Serena and I served on the Poshmark board together); Michael Jordan from The Last Dance (I’m a huge Warriors fan who had the honor of hosting Steve Kerr for a fireside chat); and of course 83, a movie about my favorite sport, cricket, which tells the story of how captain Kapil Dev led India’s team to their first World Cup win in 1983. The movie captures that experience, and having enjoyed the privilege of meeting him and becoming an ongoing friend with weekly interactions since then, here are some learnings from the movie but also from my personal interactions with Kapil.

Kapil Dev Navin Chaddha cropped image

Serena Williams Navin Chaddha cropped image

Steve Kerr Navin Chaddha cropped image

First off, for those who don’t know cricket, it’s similar to baseball in that you have players who specialize as batsman (hitter) or bowler (pitcher) and everyone is a fielder. The main difference is that the game used to be played over five days which has now evolved into one day and half day matches. 

  • Kapil sets the bar high by announcing at the first press conference in England that they have come to win the World Cup, a feat that seemed impossible given their underdog status, lack of funding, and the demotivating racial discrimination by the Western media who mocked them as having come for a paid vacation;
  • Kapil creates a confidence cult for the team by repeatedly saying if you taste success once, the tongue will ask for more, and reminding everyone all the time that we are here to win;
  • He was empathetic to teammates for example to one whose fiancee had broken up with him minutes before an important game;
  • He leads from the front and plunges in as a batsman when needed (goes on to score a record 175 runs while his strength is as a bowler);
  • He takes the critical catch of the world’s best batsman in the final which clinches the championship – but the enduring image is that of the team win;
  • He was captain cool who kept his calm demeanor amidst unfavorable circumstances and always demonstrated a fighting spirit to win against all odds;
  • He is an unapologetically authentic leader who always demonstrated humility (he allowed his team members to make fun of his heavily accented and broken English in the movie) and having met him in small and large gatherings, I know that he brings his natural self to every interaction;
  • He created a safe, friendly and fun atmosphere in the players room off the field. The team used to banter, make fun of each other, but be supportive of one another which allowed them to be friends on and off the field and share their personal problems openly;
  • He was always approachable as any player on the field could go up to him and offer advice and he would listen;
  • He had great ability to handle criticism and did not react to reporters or fans. He advised his team members to be calm, not react and the let their play in the game to do the talking (i.e. demonstrate results);
  • He is dedicated to helping others – twenty years ago, Kapil founded Khushi, a nonprofit that helps children stay in school, which has transformed the lives of 1.5 million women and children.

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