Our culture often places more emphasis on individual effort than on teamwork. One of the best reasons for getting your kids into sports is to teach them at an early age how to be team players. While you may be proud of your kids for just committing to a sport, you can help them understand that there’s more to team activities than just sticking with it. Encourage your child to thrive in a group environment by sharing these tips.
“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’” is a primary tenet of teamwork. Help your child understand that what’s best for the team as a whole may not always be best for a single player. For example, a common play in baseball is the sacrifice bunt, in which the batter bunts the ball with the goal of advancing his team’s base runners in exchange for an out. Use the analogy of trees in a forest to reinforce this concept. It’s important to see each individual as a tree that together make up the forest (i.e., the team), rather than focus on the tree that represents “me.”
It can be difficult for kids to take ownership of their mistakes. When something goes wrong, it’s often easier to point a finger at someone else than to own the mistake yourself. However, a key component of being a team player is taking responsibility for your own missteps. Reassure your child that everyone makes errors, and suggest that it’s better to admit them than to blame a teammate for something you know was your fault.
Whether your child is the team captain or a third-string player, they must learn to see the value of each position on their team. Even the quarterback can’t score a touchdown alone. If your child becomes too arrogant about their skills, or demoralized about a lack of them, remind them that everyone’s role is essential.
Your child may be ahead of their teammates in their understanding of good sportsmanship and teamwork. Encourage them to stand as an example in promoting teamwork and leading other players towards harmony. Remind them that doing so now may pay off in the future: team players are often recognized for their model behavior and chosen as team captains.
It’s easier for others to understand you if you attempt to understand them. Suggest that your child try putting their teammates’ needs ahead of their own and encourage their goals and efforts. Your child might find that their teammates start treating them the same way. This can help build a sense of camaraderie on the team.
When details of who did what during the game become too central, it’s easy to lose sight of the fun of playing. Try to help your child keep a balanced perspective about their participation. Check in with them to make sure that they’re still enjoying it. After all, teamwork is easier when you like what you’re doing. Encourage your child to find a sport they love. If their love for it fades over time, help them consider other extracurricular options.