Passing the Baton
For the most part, track and field events are a solo affair. You may compete against others, but the vast majority of the competitions involve running, jumping or throwing your best with no help or involvement from teammates.
Relay races are the exception to the rule. Even if the individual members are all the fastest on the track, if they fail to execute the baton pass smoothly and quickly, they will loose the race. It is the point of contact that is critical. The runner who is anticipating the hand-off needs to think beyond his or her stretch of the track. It becomes vital that he adjusts his speed and gait, to fall into sync with the runner who is ready to pass the baton. Before he can take off from his starting point, the previous runner must finish well, securely transferring the baton into the outstretched hand.
Who are you in this scenario? Are you the runner who is exhausted, who has just given it all on the track and you are trying desperately not to stumble in order to ensure a smooth transition? Maybe you are so spent that you don't even care anymore. You push the baton toward the next person in line, and if it falls on the track, so be it.
Perhaps you are the runner waiting for your teammate to catch up. You are hyped up and ready to go, but they seem to be taking their sweet time to pass on their knowledge, authority, or anything else that keeping you from running your portion of the race. It may be that you've even practiced countless times what that transition might look like. Yet, in the moment when it counts, the hand off is awkward and difficult.
A third option might be that you are the baton. You find yourself between departments or jobs. It may be time to go back into the workforce after a period of absence. Maybe it's the other way around and you are looking at retirement after a decades long career. Whatever the transition may be, the daunting task of being passed between hands is both exciting and terrifying. In an ideal world, the pass off is well rehearsed. What a dream it would be to have two managers working together to ensure that your shift from one department to the next is flawlessly executed for the benefit of the team. Unfortunately, the reality may find you dropped on the track with two flawed people fumbling to get you solidly into a single hand.
So what's a person to do? If you are the runner getting ready to hand off the baton, finish well. Give it all you've got, but not to the point of loosing your footing before the connection. Pace yourself and trust the next runner in line with what you carry in your hand.
If you are waiting for the hand off, be patient without being idle. Stay limber and focused. When you see the transition about to happen, fall into step with the previous runner and allow the momentum they have already established to propel you forward. As much as it is possible, momentarily match rhythms to keep your predecessor from stumbling.
For you batons, get ready. You can't do much about anyone else's timing. You simply need to make yourself available. It may be that the best (and only) thing you can do is to be accessible. In the event that you are dropped, don't take it personally. The handoff may not have been practiced and the teammates may not work well together. Once you are back in hand, know that you are a vital component of the team. They cannot complete the race without you.
So on your marks, get set and go! I look forward to seeing you all on the podium.