You’ve heard the old saying that there is no “i” in team, right? While it’s true that selflessness is the mark of a good teammate and embodies the full picture of a team player, I’d like to break it down a bit. Here are 5 characteristics that will make an athlete stand out as a team player on his or her youth sports journey.
1. A team player leads by example
As parents, this starts with you. Be the kind of person that you want your child to be. With that as your foundation, you can encourage your child to be the kind of team member that he wants everyone on his team to be. A team player doesn’t tell everyone else what to do, he shows them.
2. A team player asks good questions
Asking good questions is a sign of being coachable. Athletes show respect for coaches and other team members by asking for their input and suggestions. A team player is open to the ideas of others because he truly wants to do what is best for the team, not just what he thinks is best.
The best and most informative questions to ask are open ended: What’s the best way to handle that player? What can I do to have better vision on the field? Why am I having such a hard time with my accuracy? Closed questions require a simple yes or no answer, which is much less helpful.
3. A team player knows how to adapt
Instead of sitting on the bench moping as she watches her teammates on the field or court, a team player looks to help out in any way possible. She is flexible and willing to do whatever the team needs her to do.
Simply put, if her role is to be encouraging on the bench, then she should do it excellently. If her role is to be the closing pitcher, a pitch hitter, a back-row defender, a special teams player, or the 6th man off the bench, then she should do it superbly. If her role is to play a position she’s never played or a position that gets little glory, then she should do it remarkably.
Adaptability will allow her to do whatever she can to help her team succeed.
4. A team player can be trusted
A team player is one who can be relied on to do his job, and to do it well. He does his job well because he listens and respects the viewpoints of other people. When a coach puts your child in the game, he wants to know that your child understands his job and will do what he’s supposed to do. He wants to know that your child can be trusted to think of the team instead of himself.
If your child goes rogue and does what he wants, either by disregarding the coach or his teammates, then nobody wins.
5. A team player communicates well
It’s easy for parents to jump in and do the communicating for their kids. When there’s a problem with the coach, dad does the confronting. When your child is struggling in school, mom calls the teacher. Youth sports are a great place for kids to learn how to communicate their frustrations and ideas with others. If your child is struggling with playing time, let him talk to the coach on his own. If he is having problems in a certain class, let him go ask his teacher for help.
This does not necessarily mean that mom and dad are totally silent, it merely gives your child the responsibility of initiating the conversation and a chance to learn how to say what he’s thinking and feeling.
A team player is a valuable asset to any organization, don't forget that. Today, it’s the youth sports team. Tomorrow, it’s a job or responsibilities at home. In any environment, a team player gives others around him a better chance for success.
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