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Training with other leaders taught me how to set and achieve my goals. As a member, I even earned a college scholarship! Look out world, here I come!

Mr. Joe Gilbert, Offensive Line Coach for the Indianapolis Colts, applauds ATA Martial Arts, teaches Teamwork & Team Building to Instructors

ATA Instructors from Region 102 and Region 106 recently seized the unique opportunity to attend a private seminar on “Teamwork and Team Building” lead by Mr. Joe Gilbert, Offensive Line Coach for the Indianapolis Colts NFL football team.

The Gilbert family (Coach Joe Gilbert, wife Cheryl, daughter Madison, and sons/ATA students Timmy, Nick and Joe) strikes a pose with ATA Instructor Master Tina Newberry, March 2012.

In 25 years of coaching, Coach Gilbert has trained athletes at every level of college football and is currently coaching in the National Football League (NFL). He has a remarkable history of developing football teams and creating champions. So far, his leadership has “turned around” six programs to produce consistently winning teams.

During his presentation, Coach Gilbert used his football experience to discuss team development, adding his perspective as a “Karate Dad,” so the lessons applied directly to the business of martial arts training. (He and his wife, Cheryl, have a daughter, Madison, and three sons, Nicholas, Joseph, and Timothy, who are ATA students at Masters Tina and Jeff Newberry’s Leaders for Life Martial Arts Academy in Champaign, Illinois. It is because of this relationship that he agreed to lead a seminar for the Instructors.)

Coach Gilbert spoke passionately about his experience raising sons who train in Songahm Taekwondo. “I believe in the ATA because of the results I have seen in my children,” he said proudly, noting the benefits are both athletic and academic, and also widespread. “The results are both physical and mental and combine personal discipline with technical achievement. The improvements I have witnessed are not just in my children, but in other students as well. I have seen how Taekwondo improves confidence in children as well as adults.”

“Being able to stand up in front of a group of people and perform is a critical skill for success. My sons are learning this through the ATA,” Coach Gilbert said. “My sons have improved their competitiveness and this is so important. Every day of life can be a fight. Teaching competitiveness early is so important for children.”

Coach Gilbert also stated “I believe certain life skills are getting lost in today’s society. The ATA teaches life skills. The ATA teaches kids to pay attention, listen to details, and then they get tested on their knowledge. I believe in the ATA, that is why I am here to speak to you on teamwork.”

The lessons began with Coach Gilbert presenting the Webster dictionary definition of teamwork: “a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group.”

Throughout his speech, Coach Gilbert noted similarities between ATA schools and collegiate/pro football organizations. Both endeavors share certain principles and requirements, including this: “to develop a good team, one must understand the hierarchy of the organization.” He then compared the organizational structure of the NFL to that of an ATA Martial Arts Academy.

NFL ATA Corporate
Team Owner Academy Owner (ATA Licensee)
General Manager Manager
Head Coach Head Instructor
Assistant Coaches Instructors
Staff Staff
Players Students
Fans Parents

He pointed out that in the ATA as in the NFL, both players (students) and fans (parents) must be satisfied with their coach’s (instructor’s) work for us to ultimately find success. Teamwork must be supported at all organizational levels.

Most companies realize that teamwork is important, he explained, because their product has multiple layers, i.e. it takes a team made up of individuals with different skills and thoughts to produce, market, distribute, and most importantly, to improve the product. Ultimately, the whole is greater than sum of its parts: the better the team, the better the product.

Coach Gilbert observed that members of highly successful teams focus less on “ME” and more on “WE.”  Decisions should always be made in the best interest of the group.  “All team members should have a voice and be given feedback,” he said.

Coach Gilbert described eight conditions vital to achieving the best teamwork:

1.       The team must set goals. The goals must be specific.  The goals must be realistic, but leaders should not be afraid to reach for the sky.

2.       The team must have a results-driven structure, with an awards system in place for reaching the goals.

3.       The team must have competent members. The team should consist of self-motivated individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills need to succeed.

4.       The team members must be unified in their commitment to the same goal.

5.       The team must have an open working environment, meaning permission to express their ideas and opinions.  Team members must feel a sense of trust, honesty, and respect for each other.

6.       The team must have high standards that all members understand.

7.       The team must receive positive support and encouragement. A great trait of a leader is learning what makes the individual click.

8.       The team must have a LEADER.  This person is the face of the organization.  Team members must believe in the leader’s skills.  The leader must own the vision.

Coach Gilbert also explained there are four stages that teams typically undergo in the process of their development, which are:

1.       Forming the group. Members find their positions, feel out the boundaries. and test the leader’s guidance.

2.       Coming together. This is the most difficult stage as team members are focused on each other rather than the goal.

3.       Beginning to perform. Members accept each other and performance improves as relationships grow.

4.       Winning. Team members accept and work off each other’s abilities. Loyalty is high and ideas and suggestion are welcome.

When training individuals to perform martial arts, or to become more adept at certain activities or subjects, the chances of success are often greatly enhanced by teamwork. People form teams with qualified professionals all the time, especially when it concerns the education, safety, and well-being of themselves and their children. ATA Masters and Instructors realize the serious nature of those goals and work diligently on several teams at once to achieve them without fail. 

The Instructors who received Coach Gilbert’s informative presentation were delighted and grateful for the privilege to learn masterful lessons of teamwork from such an accomplished leader. The ATA was also honored to receive such glowing praise from Coach Gilbert. ATA salutes the considerable victories – and anticipates many still to come – from this formidable coach and the future Black Belts in his good care.


By Senior Master Patti Barnum, 7th Degree Black Belt,
Owner, ATA Taekwondo, Darien, IL and Homewood, IL