How to Teach Your Kids About Being a Team Player

How to Teach Your Kids About Being a Team Player

When my son was younger, he played on a basketball team with a group of athletes who were more interested in playing for their individual glory than for the glory of the team. Over and over again, the coach would chew them out for their individualistic attitudes. Each time, they’d come out and play unselfishly for about half a game before reverting to their old habits. Parents complained about certain players. Players complained about certain players. Even the newspaper bloggers noticed the selfishness of certain players. But nothing changed.

Why is it that high school players -- who have probably heard since they were little about the importance of being team player -- are still playing the sport so selfishly? As parents, we can talk about the importance of being a team player until we are blue in the face. Our young athletes may be hearing us, but are they really listening? Maybe. But most likely not.

What they are listening to is our actions. And if we don’t model a team player attitude before them, it will probably never really sink in. We must teach our children about teamwork by modeling it. One time I went with a group of coworkers to a women’s recovery center where, in 2 1/2 hours, we painted 2 living rooms and 3 bedrooms in 2 small apartments. Some taped, others spackled, some rolled paint, others used brushes.

No one’s job was more important than others. We didn’t keep track of how many walls we painted or how many holes we spackled. We achieved our goal: newly painted apartments.

That was teamwork.

And the more we live that out before our kids, the more they will get the idea that teamwork really is the best way to get things done. There are many ways to model teamwork:

  • Look for opportunities to serve in your community and church.
  • Share household responsibilities with your spouse and children, and be willing to chip in and help when someone really needs it without being a martyr.
  • Be a team player at work. Don’t come home and complain about all the work YOU have to do.
  • Do your part to volunteer at school for your child’s team --in the snack bar, driving to games, or keeping stats.

There’s nothing more aggravating than seeing a player on the court or field exhibit a selfish attitude. And it’s not just about hogging the ball, it’s about being mad every time coach pulls you out of the game, complaining from the bench about your teammates, only being concerned about how much time YOU play and how well YOU do.

When I see a selfish athlete, I always look at the parents. I often see that same attitude exhibited in mom or dad or both. Let’s face it, parents, whether we like it or not, our kids will do as we do, not as we say.

Are you showing your young athletes what a team player looks like?

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