It’s not easy being a team player. As humans, we tend to be more concerned about what’s good for me. But a team player knows that sometimes what’s best for the team is not always going to agree with what’s good for me.
How can you help your child be a team player?
1. Teach them to spell. There is no “I” in the word team. It’s not about how many points I score, how many tackles I chalk up, how many rebounds I pull down. It’s about how the team performs.
It’s okay to keep stats for your kids; it helps them know if they are improving. But players should not be obsessed with them. My son played basketball with a player whose first impulse was to check his numbers after the game and then brag about them. This did not help build team comraderie.
2. Teach your child to count. There are 5 players on a basketball team, 11 on a football team, six on a volleyball team, 11 on a soccer team, and 9 on a baseball team.
Remind your child that no matter how good of an athlete he is, he cannot play the game by himself. Take the other 4 players off the basketball court and watch the star player get spanked. Doesn’t matter how good he can dunk. And how’s a quarterback supposed to throw without a line to protect him or a receiver to catch?
3. Teach your child to read–people. Kids can learn to be sensitive to their teammates. Hurt feelings and miscommunications will happen on every team. But instead of ignoring the problem, my husband-coach encourages our kids to seek to understand, rather than to be understood.
My kids would often come home disgusted at how a negative player’s words affected teammates. They read the situation and knew that behavior was not right.
4. Teach your child to speak another language, the one of humility. To many children, the language of humility is as foreign to their vocabulary as Spanish or French. How many kids do you know who accept responsibility for 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 pass resulting in a turnover was her fault, not theirs.
At the same time, remind them that the secret to a healthy sports humility is to be humble and admit mistakes, then shake it off and move on to the next play.
5. Teach them science. Putting together a team is like conducting a chemistry experiment. Mixing and matching players for a winning combination is definitely a science. And what’s best for the team may not be what your athlete wants.
My oldest daughter played softball since she was 8 and was a catcher since 7th grade. When she went to college, she played catcher for two years and then in her junior year, was put in the outfield because another catcher earned the starting catcher spot. Instead of complaining, Cristi told her coach she knew the other girl was a better catcher and she would do what was best for the team. She moved to the outfield and after playing great outfield defense all season, she was named defensive player of the team. That was a team chemistry lesson that we she will never forget.
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.
Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.