Toronto – Canada




Dr. James T. Rutka | Jo Lee Magazine


Text and Photography

By James T. Rutka, MD



On The Importance Of Teamwork




A few months back, I journeyed to my medical school alma mater, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario Canada, to celebrate the 40thAnniversary of our football team’s Vanier Cup championship game against the University of British Columbia.  It was the “Football Legacy” weekend at Queen’s, and prior to the opening kick-off for the game between Queen’s and Western University, our 1978 Vanier Cup team was invited onto the field to be recognized. I have learned that 40 years passes in a blink of an eye.  As my team members and I get older, our exploits on the gridiron in 1978 seem to get better.  Such often happens with the passage of time.


I had the great privilege of being the quarterback of thechampionship team.  I often think of all the lessons I learned while playing with this highly talented group of football players, now all dear friends, several of whom went on to play in the Canadian Football League.  In team sports such as football, I learned the importance of discipline, and the repetition of complex plays on the training field until they could be performed seamlessly and skillfully on game days.  I learned the importance of teamwork, and how great things can be accomplished when everyone on the team is pulling together towards a common goal. As quarterback, I learned the importance of strategy, and calling plays from the huddle which took advantage of our position on the field, our opponent’s defensive formations, and the time remaining on the clock.   My teammates and I all learned the importance of personal fitness, of mind and body, which likely led to our advantage on the playing field not only on the day of the Vanier Cup game, but also throughout the year.  We had the remarkable distinction that entire season of being undefeated.


Other lessons learned included time management skills which for me have been invaluable.


At Queen’s, I was studying to become a medical doctor, and it was important to be able to balance my daily studies at school with practicing and playing football six days a week.  After graduating from medical school at Queen’s, I went on to pursue a career in academic neurosurgery, which to this day requires me to optimize the time I spend caring for my patients, performing research on the molecular biology of brain tumors, and doing a sizeable amount of office administration. 


Of course, the best part of playing team sports, in my opinion, are the friendships and the camaraderie that develop, endure, and strengthen over the course of one’s life.  While our Vanier Cup football championship occupied only a brief moment in time, that moment has been the source of great memories that will last a lifetime.  






Comments are closed.