Tips on How to Be a Great Teammate

TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More. You have probably seen this before. What makes a great teammate? Why do some teams really get along and others have more conflict?

If you are a member of a team that does not get along well, you know the challenges it brings when you are trying to win games. When teams are not in sync, it’s tough.

On the other hand, when you participate on a team that has great chemistry and really gets along, you know how good that feels, especially when it leads to winning.

Which team do you prefer? I would imagine you want the team with good chemistry. What are some things you can do to ensure that your team is more in line with good chemistry?

It begins with you being a great teammate. Here are some tips to help you be the best teammate you can be.

Be a Great Communicator

Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you feel misunderstood, a conversation needs to occur. If you are having a conflict with a coach or teammate, a conversation needs to occur. Let it begin with you.

You show courage and conviction in the fact that you desire clear channels of communication where everyone is safe to express their thoughts and concerns.

Communication is not a one-way street. A good communicator is also a good listener. Try to listen and understand the other perspective when you have conversations. Let each other finish thoughts and sentences before interrupting. Make eye contact and be genuine.

Learning how to be a good communicator takes practice, but if you can become good at it, it will serve you well both in college and later in life.

Two girls sharing headphones sitting on a bench

Make Teammates Part of Your Family

Making the team a member of your family shows that you value them as people. Even if you don’t truly get along, allowing people into your life might shatter the walls that separate and divide.

You may have to look at yourself first. Are there any walls or judgments about your teammates that you realize are coming from you? Be open to seeking understanding.

Building team relationships starts with you. Let them know you care. Your team is another family. You spend a lot of time with these people. It’s worth trying to get along like sisters.

Be an Unselfish Person

Make it more about the team than about yourself. Let your teammates see that you care about each person and are willing to sacrifice for them. That does not mean, for example, that you don’t take your open shots in basketball or give up your home runs in softball. It means that you don’t have to have all the credit for wins or good plays.

You can share the credit, or, even better, proclaim the credit by giving it to other members of your team. For example, if you won the 4X4 in track, you can give the credit to the handoff or the first leg of the race. If you had the game-winning spike in volleyball, you could give credit to the setter who set you the ball before the spike. 

Take the blame for a loss or deflect the blame away from the coach or a teammate who had a bad play. When your team and coaching staff see you carry some of the blame, chances are they will respect you even more.

Being unselfish can feel scary, especially when you are looking for college attention from coaches. However, your talent will present itself, and the fact that you are an unselfish teammate will increase your value. Sharing credit and speaking highly of your teammates and your coaches is a sign of maturity.

Crew team in a boat on the water

Give More

Chances are you are not working as hard as you can. Most people, when pushed a little harder, will meet the challenge. Athletes are no different.

Your example of hard work will be contagious, especially if it helps the team win games or win drills in practice. Give your all to the sport. A strong work ethic transcends any medal, trophy, ring or championship.

Reflect on your own work ethic. Are you doing enough? Or are you judging others because you don’t think they are giving enough? Look inward first. Be an example for others to follow.

Keep It All in Perspective

Do not allow the short run to override the long run. Being a great teammate takes time and energy. Set the example that you are “all in” for the duration. There will be setbacks and obstacles that were unexpected. Keeping it in perspective and keeping your team in the race will help them stay together.

A good reminder: Having team conflicts, arguments or debates does not signify a team with bad chemistry or a team made up of bad teammates. Recognize that conflict and disagreements may happen, but they don’t have to tear a team apart.

After an argument, make sure everyone comes back together and can focus once again on the big picture. You are all in this together. Shake hands, shake it off and get back to working together to accomplish the goals.

Three girls eating pizza on a couch

Know Your Coaches and Teammates Beyond the Sport

Even with all the time you spend with your team and coaches in and around your sport, you still may not know them that well. In practice or team meetings, everyone is focused on the practice, film critique, next game, etc. But when away from those activities, people are usually more relaxed and able to display true personalities.

Spending time together away from the game will help you understand your teammates and coaches better. Have fun with them and enjoy them as people, not just as coaches and athletes.

Some examples to help build relationships away from the sport are the following:

  • Team dinners
  • Team hikes
  • Team activity at a coach’s or player’s house
  • Road trip for fun
  • Team movie

This list could go on for pages. There are so many things you could do to get to know your coaches and teammates outside of your sport. I do realize that COVID affects your options right now, so here are some ideas for team building during COVID:

  • Team bike ride
  • Team run (just kidding)
  • Team picnic
  • Team clean up of a park or other community facility
  • Team circle up with an elementary program (most of those children will look up to you)
  • Virtual get-togethers

This list could also go on for pages. What about now that the winter months are bringing cooler weather? Here are some cool (no pun intended) things to try:

  • Team bonfire making s’mores
  • Building ice sculptures
  • Building snow tunnels (lots of snow required)
  • Soup-making contest
  • Walking for a cause (indoor or outdoor)
  • Virtual scavenger hunts

If you really want to get to know your team, and you really want to work on relationships, then begin to take steps to do so. Let your creativity begin.

Three girls smiling and posing for picture

Respect Your Teammates and Coaches

Your team and coaches are probably made up of all sorts of people that are different than you. Respecting and appreciating those differences is key to everyone getting along.

Here are some phrases to help you remind yourself that we are all people first:

  • I respect all my teammates, who are all trying to do their best.
  • I respect and try to listen to my coaches with an open ear and an open mind.
  • I trust myself to be a great teammate.
  • I will initiate conversations when there is a misunderstanding or conflict.
  • I appreciate the abilities of every teammate. We’re in this together. 
  • I appreciate all members of the team, including the managers and trainers.
  • I am open to all kinds of differences in people, and I know we can still accomplish great things together.

You are a special person with special gifts. Just think of what the world would be like if we truly appreciated each other and everyone else’s special gifts. We could accomplish anything. The same holds true for your team. 

It begins with you.

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