Kickball & culture: Employees, execs come together for kickball showdown
When most CEOs challenge their employees, they’re typically not smearing black stripes under their eyes and sporting a sweat band. Andy Page, however, is not your average CEO.
In the spirit of employee empowerment, ORAU’s President and CEO Andy Page had an idea that would bring employees together companywide. He decided to pit employees against their bosses and challenged ORAU’s executive committee to a task that would require both physical and mental strength—ORAU’s first-ever kickball game. And his idea worked, almost too well.
“Andy wanted to get employees excited and have a good time together,” said Lauren Shaffer, an ORAU employee relations and diversity specialist. “So, we decided to do a kickball game.”
With the challenge accepted, team captains were chosen. Page headed the Executive team and Mae Mosely, director of employee relations and diversity, championed the Employee team. Fortunately for Mosely and unfortunately for Page, she was able to pick her lineup from every corner of ORAU.
“We knew the importance of diversifying the Employee team,” said Chanel Sudderth, an employee relations and diversity specialist hired on just in time to join the fun. “So, we sought out employees from across ORAU who had previous kickball experience.”
Despite the tough competition, Page wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. For weeks leading up to the game, Mosely and Page went toe-to-toe in a verbal smack down. Messages such as, “you kick like a baby,” were passed between teams. The only way to solve the rivalry was on the kickball field.
“The idea of a kickball game where people don’t need outright physical skill to participate was very appealing,” said Nicie Murphy, manager of ORAU K-12 STEM Programs and player on the Employee team. “I always enjoy moments where colleagues can get to know each other outside of typical professional encounters so I thought this was a great idea.”
Players and coaches weren’t the only employees involved in the “friendly” competition. Employees who weren’t on the field were cheerleaders, sideline referees, field builders, event organizers, or they simply came out on the early spring day to enjoy an ice cream and watch ORAU’s executives attempt to win a kickball game.
Thanks to the game, Employee Team Coach Justin Fields felt a new comradery with co-workers he didn’t know well beforehand.
“I think this opportunity allowed us to meet other employees that we might not necessarily work with on a day-to-day basis,” said Fields. “This, to me, is very important when it comes to building a cohesive team here at ORAU.”
Nicole Phillips, a player on the employee team, agreed, adding that the game helped remind employees that they are one team, too.
“It’s important to have fun on the job and have positive relationships with coworkers because we spend almost 25 percent of our time at work,” said Phillips.
From near and far, employees rallied together to ensure the Executives knew what they were up against. Similar to everyday business, the game allowed employees to think strategically with people outside their departments, and on a level playing field.
“The game empowered employees to come up with a strategic plan that would place the right employees in the right positions, practice effective communication and encourage each other to victory,” Sudderth said.
And, of course, it was all about having fun. When the day came for the employees and executives to step out onto the newly lined kickball field, the company came together as one team. In that moment, there were no winners or losers; but by the end of the game, there was. The employees dominated 7-2, and Andy Page still isn’t ready to admit defeat. There will be a re-match in 2020, he says.
Until then, the championship belt remains with Mae Mosely and most importantly, with ORAU’s employees.
“The idea of a kickball game where people don’t need outright physical skill to participate was very appealing. I always enjoy moments where colleagues can get to know each other outside of typical professional encounters so I thought this was a great idea.”
-Nicie Murphy, manager of ORAU K-12 STEM Programs and player on the Employee team