On a sports team, there are players and there are team players. A team player knows that what’s best for the team may not always agree with what he wants as a player.
When my daughter went to college to play softball, she was reminded of the importance of having a team player attitude. She had every intention of competing for the starting catcher position. Although she put up a good fight, it became apparent to the coach that there was a better person for the job, and so he put my daughter in left field. This was not her preference, but she recognized that for the sake of the team, that was where she should play.
Not only did she accept the new challenge with a positive attitude, but she also excelled in it and was recognized for her defensive performance.
Does your child understand the value of being a team player? I can’t speak for every coach of course, but as a coach’s wife for over 30 years, I know from experience at the youth sports level that coaches greatly prefer working with players who put the team first.
Along with the lessons that your kids are learning in the classroom, here are some lessons they can learn when playing sports that will help them develop their team player attitude:
A Spelling Lesson
There is no “I” in team. It’s not about how many touchdowns I score, how many goals I make, or how many baskets I shoot. It’s about team performance. It’s okay for athletes to know their stats, they should not be obsessed with them. My son played basketball with an athlete who checked the stats after each game and bragged about his points. He made a lot of points, but he also annoyed a lot of people.
A Math Lesson
Baseball and softball teams have 9 players; a basketball team has five, a football team has 11; a volleyball team has six and a soccer team has 11. Even great athletes cannot play the game alone. Take 4 players off the court and watch the star player get destroyed. Doesn’t matter how good he can shoot. And can a quarterback throw without a line to protect him or a receiver to catch?
A Reading Lesson
Hurt feelings and miscommunications happen on every team. My husband, who has coached for 32 years, encourages players to seek to understand, rather than to be understood. Not an easy task for kids who seem consumed with themselves, but it can happen.
A Language Lesson
To many children, humility is as foreign as Latin or French. Most kids would rather not take responsibility for their actions, especially their mistakes. When our QB son threw an incomplete pass, we reminded him that sometimes the mistake was his and encouraged him to admit that to his receiver. And our daughter learned to acknowledge to her teammates when a bad basketball pass was her fault, not theirs.
A Science Lesson
Mixing and matching players for a winning combination is definitely a science, admits my husband-coach. There is such a thing called chemistry when it comes to playing together as a team. My kids did not always get to play their first position of choice when they were in youth sports, but they learned that mixing things up was often just what their team needed to work together smoothly.
As athletes, our children enter a learning environment whenever they step onto the court or field. Let’s teach them that being a team player will earn them a passing grade every time.
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