Carla Overbeck (current Duke Soccer Coach) at the 1996 Olympics
Chances are you’ve never heard of Carla Overbeck. She was captain of the U.S. national women’s soccer team that won Olympic gold in 1996 and the World Cup in 1999, a team that over four years of international play posted an 84-6-6 record, making them one of the winningest squads in the history of sports.
Overbeck was arguably the key to their success -- “the heartbeat of that team and the engine,” and “the essence of the team,” as one teammate put it. Yet no one has ever heard of her. She wasn’t the best player on the team, or the most talented. She played defense, and rarely scored, though she played almost every minute of every game. To the outside world she was invisible, but to her teammates she was indispensable.
Overbeck also had one habit that seems kind of eccentric: When the players arrived at a hotel, she would carry everyone’s bags to their rooms for them.
Its author, Sam Walker, is an editor at the Wall Street Journal and an avid sports fan. He set out more than a decade ago to study the greatest teams in sports history and figure out what traits they shared. He reckoned you could apply those same principles to business.
Over the course of 11 years, Walker studied 1200 teams in 37 sports. He traveled around the world conducting interviews. After all that he could find only one thing that extraordinary teams had in common, and it wasn’t what you’d expect.
It was not the coach. It was not a superstar player. The key to success was that each had an extraordinary captain -- like Carla Overbeck.
“The most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness,” Walker argues, “is the character of the player who leads it.”
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