As we talk to our players about the importance of the team, we have all probably used the classic phrase “there is no ‘I’ in team” and that the word TEAM stands for “Together Everyone Accomplishes More.”
When we use these phrases, especially with younger players, we assume that our players know what it takes to be a team player and a good teammate. Making assumptions can lead to frustration and misunderstandings.
One way to avoid the pitfalls of assuming that our players know what it takes to be a good teammate is for the coach, as the leader and educator of the team, to facilitate a conversation among their players about what they think it means to be a good teammate. This conversation should be designed so that it allows them to share their expectations of each other as teammates. After the players have their opportunity to share, the coach should add your own expectations about the qualities of a good teammate to the list. A record of this jointly developed list of expectations should be shared with the players and their families as it sets the stage for creating a more positive team experience.
One of the benefits of sharing expectations is that it requires us, as coaches, at the outset to reflect and think about what we value in team players. To get you started on this reflection process, consider the 10 rules for being a good teammate from the Proactive book, "Teaching Character through Sport":
# 10. You are willing to play any role that helps the team;
# 9. You would rather score less and win, than score a lot and lose;
# 8 When your team scores, the first people you congratulate are your teammates;
#7. You LOVE practice as much as you LOVE games;
#6. You respect your opponents but don't fear them;
#5. YOU LISTEN; YOU ARE COACHABLE; YOU RESPECT YOUR COACHES, TEAMMATES, OFFICIALS AND OPPONENTS;
#4. You are quick to pick up a teammate who is having a bad day;
#3. You help younger teammates who have less experience;
#2. You learn and grow from your own mistakes, as well as others; and
#1. You are confident but not arrogant.
There are other top ten lists. Develop your own. Share it with your team. Regardless of the list, one major thing that should be emphasized to all players is that regardless of their ability, they can and should try to be a great teammate.