Team sports start pretty early these days, with kids as young as four and five enrolling in soccer and tee ball leagues. For most kids, that’s just the beginning. They’ll go on to participate in team sports throughout their school years and sometimes into their college ones. Besides sports, being part of a team will also be a requirement in the classroom and on the playground, and the same skills your child needs on the field can help him throughout life. Here are some key things to teach your child about being a great team player.
Teach him that there is no I in TEAM. This saying is still popular among coaches because it’s so true. Kids, by nature, are self-focused. It’s natural, especially at a young age, for them to think about themselves more than their teammates. They want to be the one to kick the ball in for a goal or hit the home run and win the game. Teach your child that no matter how great he is, he’s part of a team, and everyone on that team is a valuable player. Talk about how each person has something to contribute and should be given the chance to play. These ideas can be especially hard to get across to your child if he’s skilled and is considered a star of the team. When others set him apart because of his talent, it’s easy for him to fall into the trap of feeling like he can get things done all by himself. But he can’t. Even the star needs the support and help of his teammates to shine.
Let him know mistakes are a part of everything in life. No one is perfect, and mistakes are just part of the game in sports. That’s easy to say, but often kids don’t take mistakes with a great attitude. A missed ball or an out of bounds throw can cause anything from a few minutes of pouting to a full-blown meltdown. Take those opportunities to talk with your child about his feelings about the mistake. Remind him that no one on the team, not even the star player, gets it right every time. Help him remember a time when other team members made mistakes and it turned out OK. Helping him realize that his mistake isn’t fatal will help put things in perspective. Off the field or court, give your child lots of opportunities to try new things. Learning how to bounce back from mistakes in everyday life will help him do the same in the game.
Show her how to win. One of the hardest things to teach your child is the lesson of humility. It’s her natural instinct to enthusiastically celebrate her team’s wins, and there’s nothing wrong with that. She and her teammates worked hard and they deserve to celebrate! They should be proud of themselves and enjoy the payoff of all their hard work and dedication. The key is to show kindness and respect to the other team while enjoying the win. That balance is hard to achieve, even for some adults. Remind your child what’s it’s like to be on the losing team. How would she like the winning team to treat her in those situations? What could they do or say that would make the loss easier to handle? By helping her see things from the losing team’s perspective, she’ll be much better prepared to show humility when she wins.
Show him how to lose. The old adage “there’s nothing worse than a sore loser” still rings true today. Teaching your child to show humility when he wins is hard. Teaching him to show grace when he loses is even harder. His natural reaction is more likely to be anger and resentment towards the other team. Use these opportunities to talk about the importance of being proud of his efforts, even when they don’t result in a win. Books and films are filled with examples of good sportsmanship and can be discussion starters for you.
Give her practice in being part of a team outside of sports. There are lots of opportunities in your child’s everyday life for her to learn and practice good team skills. Anytime she has to work with another person to accomplish a task will help her build up the skill set she needs to be a great team player. This can happen in free play with neighborhood kids when they come together to build a backyard fort or develop a new game. It can happen when she’s working with her siblings to get the Saturday chores done. Allow your child to learn from those situations and she’ll reap the rewards both on and off the field.
Our Sports Techie community blog gratitude goes to Emma Robert and SummerNanny.com for this terrific piece.
Sports Techie, Being a good teammate goes far in sports, work and life for kids and adults alike.
No I in TEAM, but there is a ME.
- T ogether
- E ach
- A chieves
- M ore
The TEAM acronym is clearly devoid of the letter I. We should all remember to be a TEAM player when facing a sport activity such as training, practice or a game because together each achieves more. The ME acronym is one that can be misunderstood. ME does not mean ME first, rather it means that every team will need a leader or leaders at some point who are able to step forward as the ME and help lead the team to better chemistry, improved performance and helping to define player roles that are comfortable for each kid.
All teams need role players, leaders and kids I call the “GLUE” of a team. Role players are those kids who know what they bring to the team whether that is athletic or not. A team full of superstars is not a TEAM because everyone wants to be THE guy or girl. Someone who is a GLUE person can step in as a ME when needed and is always considering the TEAM first. Coaches love GLUE players, trust me.
Mistakes are part of the game and are useful in learning how to correct errors. Smartphones and tablets are an excellent resource for filming a kid or kids at play and then showing them first, the positive points, and then following up with the mistakes that can be clearly seen on the video monitor by all viewers.
My lifetime athlete Father is also a wise Grandpa and someone they call Coach down in Bend, Oregon, and a quote he often told my brothers and I, carries with me for life. “Be a humble winner and gracious loser.” I like to think of it as walking the middle path, not getting too high when you win or too low when you lose. I am all for releasing that energy when appropriate though in a classy manner when you win a big game or championship.
The best example is NFL Hall of Fame running back, Barry Sanders, who used to score touchdowns for the Detroit Lions and then gently lay the ball down on the turf or hand it back to the official. In this way, he was saying I have been here before and will be here again so it is not any big deal, while at the same time, this simple action did not offend his opponents who grew to love his athletic and human grace over his remarkable career that led to be selected as the cover of the Madden 25 football video game by EA Sports.
Practice outside of sports is a noble deed for your child to undergo. Sign them up for a free or low cost camp or event at a local park, Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA. A cities or counties Park & Rec department is another excellent resource where you can search and find team related activities that are outside the realm of sports or even tech.
I love this part of the year in the United States and worldwide because so many team sports are in full swing or about to get going. The MLB postseason, and NFL regular season and college football games are here as are the British Premier League soccer matches. The NHL hockey season just started too. The NBA and college basketball season have arrived and so too have many other global sports leagues. Be sure to use this opportunity with the live or archived games you watch on TV or on your second screen mobile device, as an opportunity to share with young children and youth aged kids examples of what being a good or bad teammate at both the Professional and amateur levels so they can learn to do the right thing and become a great team player.
Teach kids to have clean fun too!
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