When it comes to college sports, everything is a competition. As a high school athlete you are in competition with hundreds if not thousands of other prospective student athletes that all want the same thing. A scholarship, and a roster position at their dream college. When you arrive on campus as a freshman, you are in competition with all the other athletes on the field to see who will have the best the fitness testing score, who will be in the starting lineup, who will score the most points or have the most conference awards. Everything is a competition.
But in the midst of this competition, between moments when you are fighting to be the fastest, the strongest and the best on the field. You are a teammate. And being a good teammate is your most important job. A team full of committed, selfless athletes, working together will win championships. A team full of talented individuals will not. It’s that simple. Coaches want to recruit talented athletes, but not at the expense of a good team dynamic. Even the top athletes must learn to work within the team dynamic in order to be successful.
But what does it mean to be a good teammate? Lets have a look at some things you can strive toward to be a good teammate:
Know and accept your Role:
Whether you are a goal scorer, a stand up defender, the play maker or a support player off the bench you have an important role on the team. Not everyone can be the captain, the leading scorer or the shut out goalie, but everyone has an important role to play within a team dynamic. Even if you haven’t cracked the lineup yet, if you show up at practice and are the hardest worker on the field not only are you are helping to push and motivate the starters and prepare them for the upcoming match, but you are putting yourself in a position to change your role, break into the lineup and become an impact player. Know your role, accept where your role is on the team, but always work hard and strive to improve.
Encourage each other and be each others cheerleaders:
Coaches have many jobs. They observe, evaluate, set tactics, motivate, teach, watch game film, study statistics, make practice and game plans, keep track of their athletes mental and physical well being, make sure everyone is going to class, making their study hall hours and getting the job done on the field and in the classroom. Your coach does not always have time to be everyone’s cheerleader, thats your job as a good teammate. This means cheering, yelling, encouraging, motivating and generally keeping the energy level of your team high. Whether in a game or a practice, whether you are winning or losing, cheering for your teammates lets them know that you have their back, and you are there to support them.
On the flip side of the cheerleading coin is communication. Constructive communication can sound like this: “man on” “lay it through” “I’m coming to support” “man on your left” “step to your right” “go long” “force it to the right” or any number of directive phrases that help your team operate together to execute strategy and tactics. Great players and teams are constantly talking on the field, this helps make sure everyone is on the same page and working together both offensively and defensively. A team that communicates well – wins championships.
Being individually successful is not nearly as fulfilling as being a part of something greater than yourself. That’s one of the major draws of being on a team. A selfish athlete will think only of themselves, they will choose when to work hard, when to float, when to follow instruction or what skills to develop. A team athlete is willing to help others, and put the needs of the team before their wants as an individual. They are consistent. Work hard day in and day out, they don’t allow themselves to be a passive participant in training or competition, they listen well and follow directions, and they develop a skill set that will work with the needs of their team. A good teammate knows there are never shortcuts, and will tirelessly work for the good of the team, without need for individual recognition.
When you are playing poorly, how do you react? Do you let it affect your attitude, or how you communicate with your team? Do you make excuses? Do you lose control? A good teammate will always take responsibility when things are not going well. Instead of blaming others, they will reflect on their individual performance and identify where they can make adjustments in their own game, to benefit the team. However, good teammates share successes with their team, they never take ownership of a great win simply because they scored the winning goal, they are humble and should always attribute a good performance to a team success.
Be a Leader:
Leaders are not necessarily the most talented on the field, or the most senior on a team. They are not necessarily the athletes that start and play every single game, and they don’t need to be the team captain. Inspirational leadership is something that every team needs in order to achieve success. You can read about the qualities of a leader in this blog post.
Be trustworthy, honest and respectful:
Not every person on every team will be your best friend. There are always difficult personalities, or personalities that may not work as well together. However you must build trust and respect with each and every teammate, coach and staff member that you work with. Start by proving your own integrity and character: Say you are going to work hard, and then do it (in turn expect the same from your team). When you have a constructive criticism, suggestion or idea share it (in turn expect your team to do the same but be open to it). If everyone on the team is working with respect, trust and honesty then you will truly find your team a family, and will enjoy in your athletic career, win or lose.
Consciously work on developing these traits and skills. They are not always easy to master. But college coaches are looking for athletes that can come into the team environment that they have been working to develop over many years of recruiting. They don’t want a prima donna athlete, they want someone that will be respectful, trustworthy, selfless, and responsible. They want someone that will accept their role on the team, but will also work tirelessly to earn a better spot.