Today’s walk had me watching pelicans. And as I observed their precision maneuvers, I started to think about how birds compare to sports and their athletes. Pelicans are like synchronized swimmers, matching their moves and depending on the precise movements of each to create the desired formations as a group. I sometimes see one peel off, slowing down or heading off in a different direction, but most of the time they are working the V, adjusting position and speed to ensure that the entire group gets where it is going with speed and efficiency.
Seagulls are more like that pick up game of basketball or soccer. They have shared interests, but there is always plenty of squabbling and trash talk. There are definitely leaders and followers and lots of jockeying for position (and food). Seagulls seem to laugh a lot (at least in my mind), they love to play in the wind currents and hang out together on the beach.
Osprey are those elite individual athletes–the Mikaela Shiffrins or Serena Williams of the bird world. They are strong and independent and ferociously focused on their goals. Osprey are beauty in motion, each muscle toned, each movement made with grace that makes the nearly impossible seem easy.
Egrets are steady, patient and observant. They wait for the perfect opportunity, a lot like the utility players in football or basketball. They have that grace of movement, but they don’t draw your attention until you look away from the shining stars of the game. But when you do look…oh la la, they are poetry in motion!
Sandpipers are team players all the way. They move together, eat together, and watch out for each other. Like a finely honed World Cup soccer team, they seem to read each others’ minds, moving separately almost like one.
I’m always encouraging my students to be a team, reminding them that we need to support each other and create a space where we all can learn. But after watching the birds, I’m wondering if I need to refine my language. What kind of team do I want them to be?