When I started playing ultimate frisbee six years ago, I thought that it would be a great outlet to help me switch off from the daily grind of study and work. Back then the sport was little more than a casual pick-up game between friends. For me, spending 80 minutes on the field helped me to forget the hundreds of things I needed to do and I could just focus on the game.
But as the years went by, our games started becoming more serious and ultimate was expanding across China. This once unknown sport was burgeoning and after I joined the Shanghai frisbee community, we found ourselves faced with an opportunity to take it even further.
Last year, several teams across the country decided to band together and start the very first China women’s team and compete in the Asia Oceanic Ultimate Guts and Club Championship (AOUGCC) in the Philippines. It was the first time that the Chinese women’s ultimate team would participate in an international tournament. But in order for us to take part, it required us to think beyond the field and consider funding, sponsorship, travel and regional team management.
So, instead of switching off from work, I had to switch back on. As a marketing specialist at adidas, I’m required to work horizontally across the team to kick-start projects and keep them moving. By channeling my experience from my job, I was able to help Team China get to the Philippines – here’s how we made it happen.
1. Rally the team and establish a framework
As soon as the decision was made to form the team, we mobilized. A year out from the tournament we all gathered to kick things off. Just like the start of any new project, we needed to define our goals and map out the steps to achieve them. This year, we had one major goal – raise enough funding for the team to fly to the Philippines.
Having a big goal can be intimidating, so to break it down we started asking questions:
- How much money does it cost to enter the tournament?
- How much money did each region need to raise?
- Who can we approach for sponsorship opportunities?
- What travel arrangements will need to be made?
2. Match talent to the task
Once we had our framework in place, we needed to uncover the talent in the team to help push the project forward. Typically we’ve only ever had to worry about positions on the field, but this time we needed to fill positions for things like marketing, finance and logistics. Whenever I need to do this at work, I always take a step back to think about what my teammates are most passionate about.
- Did somebody have a flair for Photoshop? Put them in charge of designing the jerseys.
- Does someone constantly talk about Bitcoin? Have them take on the role as team treasurer.
- Was there a witty Tweeter in the group? Ask them to run the team’s social media accounts.
- Is there a team member who is always working on a side hustle? Assign them to coming up with fundraising ideas.
3. Build support structures and keep motivated
For any moving project that involves a large group, constant communication is imperative. As we had players living across three different regions – Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong – we needed to set up support structures to ensure that everyone was on the same page. To do this, we used simple group chats in WeChat – China’s most popular networking app – to establish different “pods.” This included an overarching group pod with all players involved, three regional pods, and smaller support pods.
- The overarching pod kept everyone connected and up-to-date on the headlines.
- The regional pods were used to keep track of the local fundraising efforts or the logistics of the next training session.
- The support pods connected small groups of team members in different regions so that they could chat on a weekly basis and keep each other updated on what they were working on, whether it was related to training sessions, workouts, or what they were eating for dinner.
Staying highly connected in this three-tier approach kept communication channels open at all times and maintained momentum.
4. Execute to plan
After all the planning came the time for execution. As well as keeping to our regular training sessions on the field, each region lobbied hard to raise money. From our established framework, the team developed incredibly creative ways to raise funds. The group in Beijing teamed up a with a beer brand to make a special edition brew. In Guangdong they sold custom portraits illustrated by one of their players. And in Shanghai a charity pie contest drove donations for the team. Through these innovative events, we were able to hit our target within six months.
In the end, we made it to the tournament. During the four-day competition we worked hard on the field to represent China and ended up placing sixth overall. It was an unforgettable experience to represent our country abroad, but what we were most proud of was the effort we put in to get there. All of the planning, goal setting, division of roles and constant communication really paid off. We worked hard for an entire year just for those four days and at times it did feel like a second job, but we were driven by passion and would happily do it all over again. In fact, next year’s world tournament in the United States is only eight months away and we already know that it’s going to be bigger, more complicated and more expensive – bring it on.