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What To Do If Your Athlete Isn't a Team Player

By TrueSport, 09/05/17, 10:45AM CDT

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Youth sports are a great place to teach athletes about teamwork, but sometimes it’s your own child who doesn’t seem to ‘get’ it and isn’t a team player.

But instead of treating the situation as a shortcoming or like your athlete is doing something wrong, turn it into a positive lesson about leadership and the importance of teamwork.  

Just like with improving the skills needed for their sport, here are 4 steps you can take to improve your athlete’s ability to be a team player.  

1) Explain the Bigger Picture

Athletes may hear the importance of teamwork preached to them all the time, but usually no one has bothered to explain to them exactly ‘why’ it’s so important.

Most team sports offer analogies that make teaching teamwork easy to understand, such as hitting a sacrifice fly, linemen working together to create a gap for a running back, or passing the ball to an open teammate under the basket instead of taking a long jumper.

Take time to explain to your athlete (with the coach’s help if needed) that every person on a team, from the captain to the benchwarmers, has a specific role. When everyone focuses on doing their role (even if it’s just ‘always pass to the best scorer’), the team’s chances of winning become much higher. If you have the opportunity to watch collegiate or professional sports with your child in person or on TV, point out specific instances of this role-focused teamwork to your athlete.

2) Teach Emotional Intelligence

Every youth athlete has probably been on a team that just never clicks and goes through an entire season winning few—if any—games. The athlete’s attitudes (as well the coaches’ and parents’) truly sets the tone for a season like this and reinforces the importance of teammates learning how to pick each other up during tough times.

After a tough loss, explain that losing happens to everyone but also encourage your athlete to reflect on how it feels when the team starts blaming each other in a loss compared to when everyone stays supportive of one another. It might sound cheesy, but big defeats are the perfect time to develop resilient teamwork that will eventually form a winning team.

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About TrueSport

TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.

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