This story appears in the June 2023 edition of The GēDUNK, Grove City College’s alumni magazine.
By Joanie Baumgartner
It might seem an unusual professional trajectory to go from being an education major at Grove City College to working at guest ranches in Colorado, to classroom teaching, to becoming a team trainer who works on documentaries with New Zealand adventure racers and the Joe Gibbs NASCAR Racing Team. But for Rusty Chadwick ’04, it was a career path that made perfect sense.
Not entirely convinced of his calling to the teaching profession upon graduation from Grove City College, Chadwick took a friend’s recommendation to head West and take some time to figure things out while working at a guest ranch. In the great outdoors of rugged Colorado, he developed a deep love for hospitality and creating life changing experiences for the visitors to the ranch. He returned to teaching for one year but concluded that it just wasn’t part of God’s calling for his life. He got back in the saddle for several more years of exhilarating adventure at a Colorado ranch until an intriguing opportunity at WinShape Teams in Rome, Ga., caught his eye in 2010.
Win Shape Teams is one of the five arms of the WinShape Foundation established by Truett and Jeannette Cathy, the same power couple who elevated a simple chicken sandwich and a customer-first philosophy to a near-religious experience at Chick-fil-A. The Foundation began as a college ministry designed to develop student leaders, and it eventually expanded to a five-pronged ministry organization that “glorifies God by creating experiences that transform.” One of those ministries was WinShape Teams, which was established out of a desire to build strong, healthy, and fulfilling teams that change the world around them. Today, WinShape Teams does this through team-building retreats, professional leadership development experiences, and one-to-one coaching.
In hindsight, Chadwick knows that his early post-graduate experiences, including his time teaching, were the perfect preparation for his current role as director of WinShape Teams. Just as he guided ranch guests through impactful experiences out West, he and his colleagues guide other teams through targeted experiences that promote awareness of the individual strengths and personality types within the team and how those might impact the overall team dynamics. Ultimately, “awareness points them to action, and action can bring about change,” Chadwick said. “Sometimes it’s on a small micro-scale, and sometimes it’s on a very big scale.”
Working with so many different teams through the years led Chadwick to co-author a book, Team Work: 13 Timeless Principles for Creating Success and Fulfillment as a Team Member. With plenty of books and resources available that focus on developing leaders, it made sense to tackle the topic of effective team membership and the traits of individuals who comprise the most effective teams.
Taking that idea a step further, the Teams Made Well documentary series was born. An idea to produce short videos that featured the most high-performing, healthy teams soon led to a 37-minute documentary called For the Team, centering on the New Zealand based Adventure Racing Team –Team Avaya. Known for their endurance through grueling races across land and sea (trekking, paddling, bicycling, and more) that can last up to a week, Team Avaya has won world championships many times over. In 2018, during Chadwick’s first interview with the team on Reunion Island, off the coast of Madagascar, he and his colleagues were inspired to take a deeper dive.
“When we interviewed Team Avaya and followed them, we really didn’t know what to expect, but the truths that they shared were so powerful, we decided that we could not make a 5 - 8-minute vignette, we had to do justice to the story and dig into the richness of what this team has done. Many great teams bring skill, talent, and great preparation, but what set Team Avaya apart was their genuine commitment to caring for each other. Care for and service to their fellow team members was a top distinguisher.”
Another high-performing team became the subject of the second Teams Made Well documentary that wrapped up filming in 2022. To be released in 2023, Chasing Faster is a behind-the-scenes look at the pit crews of the Joe Gibbs NASCAR Racing Team. They learned that pit crews are unsung heroes— they are elite athletes who train extensively for their very specialized roles on the team. They are a precision team in the pit, but they are also part of a larger team of drivers, team managers, and owners. The ability to shave tenths and even hundredths of a second off race time has implications that ripple out to every team member.
The truth that every individual “ripples out” to their greater team, no matter what kind of team they are part of, is one he would like every team to understand. He said, “A great teammate needs to ask themselves, ‘Am I currently doing everything I can be doing to ensure my team’s success?’.” Not settling for the status quo, establishing a bigger vision for a team, and realizing that success is collective are key mindsets that he encourages team members to adopt. “Teams are at their best when purposes are accomplished, and people are fulfilled. You can’t have one without the other. We all win, or none of us do.”
It might have seemed like a winding road that took Chadwick from Grove City College to leading a premier team-building organization in Georgia. But it was a perfectly orchestrated path where God used his talents, developed his skills, and cultivated a genuine commitment to and care for his fellow man to help him arrive at the perfect destination (even if he did have to wrangle a few steers and drive a camper van through the
mountains of Reunion Island to get there). It’s all come full circle since his days at Grove City College. “The academics and extra-curricular activities, but also the Christ-centered education – they all formed a foundation in me that is still bearing fruit today.”