Any coach can pull five or nine or 11 players together and execute an offense and a defense. And they will be a team. But will they be a strong team?
A couple of years ago, there was a movie called "The Avengers" that reminded me of what teamwork is. Pulling five people – or nine or 11 – together does not guarantee success as a team. And if your child plays sports – beginner or veteran – they may need reminders that a strong team can only be made up of members who understand what it means to be a team player.
If your children are old enough to see "The Avengers," you can use the movie’s message about teamwork to help them understand the five character traits of a strong team player.
A strong team player recognizes and accepts differences
In "The Avengers," every person on the Avenger team was different. Each had a particular strength. Each had a different personality. Each had a different history.
It’s important for members of a sports team to understand that, too. Your child needs to know that he doesn’t have to be like everyone else on the team. He is unique and brings his own set of strengths to the game.
A strong team player knows how to play to his strengths
The Avengers didn’t compare themselves to each other. They just did what they knew they could do.
It’s so easy for kids to compare themselves to others and think they are not as good or quick or big as a fellow teammate. Help your athlete figure out his strengths and know that what he brings to the team is a necessary ingredient. Encourage him to focus on doing that strength to the best of his ability.
My son and daughter both played basketball all the way through high school and understood the strengths they brought to the team. They did not compare themselves with other team members.
My daughter was a beast on defense, and my son was an excellent 3 point shooter. Both were smart passers with a vision for the court. Although both strived to be all-around good players, they knew their strengths and worked to make a difference on the team with those strengths.
A strong team player fights for a common cause
When the Avengers realized they needed to pull together in order to succeed, their determination to fight a common cause gave them strength.
Encourage your child to be a teammate who fights for a team win, not for an MVP award or to score the most points on the team or to be the team’s hero.
If your child plays on a team where players seem to care more about their own advancement rather than the team’s good, encourage him to set the example and show his teammates how a true team player fights for the team’s success, not his own.
A strong team player laughs with his teammates
As a sports parent, if your child’s team does not provide the opportunity for the kids to bond outside of practice, be the first to give them that chance.
Have a potluck barbecue with team families and let the kids have fun together playing games or swimming. Bonding outside of practice does wonders for team unity. And team unity does wonders for team success and satisfaction.
My husband made a point of taking his varsity softball team on overnight playing trips, not just to play teams out of the area but to give the girls an opportunity to have fun and bond together.
I didn’t see "The Avengers" enjoying each other’s company until the end of the movie when a couple of them drove off in a car together. They were newly acquainted in this movie, so the bonding has just begun, I’m presuming. Stay tuned for further team bonding in Avenger movies to come.
A strong team player has his teammate's back
"The Avengers" didn’t have this down until the movie neared the end. As they began fighting for a common cause, they began showing up to help each other out, often just in the nick of time.
Help your child understand that teammates need to know they can depend on each other. Teammates should not be backbiting or fighting each other. It’s important for teammates to be able to trust each other.
An Avenger for life
Once your child understands that strong team players make one heck of a strong team, he has learned a lesson that will benefit him for life. There will be other teams in his future, whether it’s at work or in the home and learning to be a team player is a skill he needs to learn.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Check out her Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series with survival guides for football, softball, basketball and volleyball moms.