Alexander Nance took the top prize for his essay on teamwork, but everyone who competed was a winner. (FAMILY PHOTO)

I have the week off. That’s because KidsPost and the Washington Wizards invited readers to be Fred Bowen for a day by writing about what it means to be a successful team. One writer would win the grand prize of having his or her essay appear in this space and get four VIP (very important person) tickets to Saturday’s Wizards game against the Phoenix Suns. Two runners-up would have their essays published at www.kidspost.comand receive four tickets to the game.

More than 175 children sent us essays. I guess a lot of kids want to be sportswriters. KidsPost readers are good writers. Picking a winner was like making the big call in a close game. And we didn’t have instant replay.

But all of the kids who wrote essays were winners. That’s because they found out that being Fred Bowen and writing about sports is a lot of fun.

I’ll be back next week, though. There are way too many of you who would take my job if I took another week off!

First place: The meaning of being a team

by Alexander Nance, 12, Laurel

What does it mean to be a successful team? Over the past year, I watched my mother fight one of the hardest battles in the world. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and even the best team of doctors could not cure her. The day she died, she went to my basketball game in the morning, and she died later that afternoon. The lesson I learned is that even if you give it your all, sometimes you don’t always achieve your goal and win.

My mother always wanted me to go to an NBA game. I have been a Wizards fan my whole life and have never been to a game. I am always observing how the best teams perform. I think the Wizards are a great team that love the game and respect each other, and that is what you need to be a successful team. For example, the more you trust your teammates, the more likely it is the team will achieve its goal. A team must work together to achieve a goal, but sometimes even the best teams don’t win. John Wall is one of my biggest idols. He trusts and respects his teammates, plays with speed and precision, and even when he loses, he is always respectful. If I could see him play, it would be a dream come true.

Runner up: It’s about working together

By Zoe Cachion, 11, Arlington

Teamwork is helping people out when they need it, and working together. You win as a team, and you lose as a team, You need to have empathy for other people on your team, Teams and teamwork are not just sports and other competitions. Teamwork is about . . . trust, loyalty, confidence and perseverance. Success in your team is not really winning every single game. It’s more about working together with your teammates. Sure, it feels fantastic to win, but it feels even better when you know everybody in the team worked hard to get that win. That’s what success in teamwork means to me.

Runner up: The ‘ubuntu’ approach

By Dan Huynh, 12, Falls Church

Before each of their games, the successful Boston Celtics yell the African word “ubuntu,” which inspires the team to focus on the greater good rather than individual success. A successful team’s players don’t care about only their stats, All-star appearances, salary or winning championships. Positive teammates focus on the people they play with every day and how they can help their peers improve. An ubuntu-type player will pass on opportunities to others. For example, the Washington Wizards show that their team is focusing on the greater good because, as Kevin Seraphin said, “we play like a team. Nobody is selfish. Nobody wants to be the hero. Every night, you let somebody else shine.” This attitude makes their team successful.

Ubuntu does not only apply to professional sports; it pertains to amateur sports also. For example, my aquatics coach told our team that during a water polo game, one of his players had the opportunity to get a hat trick. However, instead of shooting himself, he pump-faked and passed to his open teammate, who scored. This team was successful because its players shared opportunities rather than focused on themselves. When a team works together, teammates are able to help one another overcome obstacles and improve both as individuals and as a team. As the ubuntu philosophy states, “I am what I am because of who we all are.”