As my son grew up, I would try to be in a position to coach all of his youth teams. My desire to coach wasn’t about being in control or ensuring he got special attention. Rather, it was all about ensuring he and his teammates received solid instruction and were taught the importance of being good teammates to one another. More specifically, I wanted them to learn fundamentals, to be respectful of their opponent, to play hard, and to learn how to be great teammates. I am afraid that “be a great teammate” concept is not emphasized enough in youth sports, in higher levels of athletic competition, in the workplace, or in our communities in general.
Being a great teammate can be summarized as follows:
- Encouraging others on our team or in our organization
- Placing success of team/organization and other team members ahead of personal success
- Sacrificing one’s personal attention or achievement for team/organization recognition and accomplishment
- Celebrating team/organization and teammate success regardless of personal performance
- Leading others and providing an example of how to face challenges together
- Making others better through unselfish play, work, and conduct in general
This concept of being a great teammate is meaningful to me because I was not always a great teammate. I wasn’t a bad one, but I let my personal performance overshadow being a great teammate too many times. When things were going well for me personally, I was that great teammate, but when I struggled, I selfishly focused inward far too much. That approach followed me to the workplace until my eyes were opened to that shortfall and my need to place the needs of others ahead of my personal pride. I regret that I was an inconsistent great teammate growing up and in those early years in the workplace.
Our culture places so much emphasis on recognizing the most talented performers, but very little attention is placed on those individuals that are great teammates. I appreciate talent and gifted people as much as anyone, but I have also learned the value and importance of great teammates in every aspect of our society. If you were to go look at the athletic teams that have sustained success, you will no doubt see talent, but you will also see great teammates. If you go look at organizations that are great places to work, you will see talented people, but you will also see a workforce of great teammates.
The often overlooked, intangible value of great teammates is often the difference in long-term sustained success and a talented group of individuals falling short of their potential. I encourage all of us to consider the value of both being great teammates and teaching others to be great teammates. We should incorporate this concept into all our youth sports, school sponsored athletics, academic approaches, and in our workplaces. Think of the impact when we consider great teammates more valuable than superstars. Everyone can be a great teammate and have impact! Let’s value it, teach it, and recognize it!