One of the ways coaches can help athletes find their role on the team is always making the conversation about the team. So if an athlete asks them what they can do to get better or more playing time, for a coach to shift that to okay, what can you do for the team to get better?
In youth sports, everyone gets to play and everyone gets to contribute and everyone feels like they have a role on the team, but those roles become clearly more and more defined as you get to higher level sports. So for some athletes that may mean they’re the one that scores goals, for some athletes that may mean they play a defensive position or a goalie position, for some athletes it may mean they’re sitting on the bench and being in a supportive role during the game, of not being a drain on the team by sulking around on the field, because that can shift the energy of a team on game day. That can shift what the goal is of the team on game day, and then for that same athlete to show up to practice every day and contribute to make the team better.
And I think we’ve kind of lost that mentality in sports in which our teammates are the ones … We’re the ones that help each other kind of develop our craft more than anyone else day in and day out, and then the opponents we play help that as well by challenging us on game day. But really our teammates are the ones that really help us refine our craft each and every day.
So for some athletes, if they don’t get to play on game day, they really have to really take that role and really think of it as an important thing. One way I like to talk to athletes about this is you think about MMA fighters or boxers, they’re in there every day at the gym and someone is in there making them better and making them tougher, and those guys are kind of the unsung heroes.
So for youth athletes or high school athletes or college athletes, those guys riding the bench that are practicing hard every day and showing up off the field in a good way for their teammates, those are the unsung heroes of successful teams. And I think those unsung heroes might be the most important people on the team.
You’re always going to have great players on your team, you’re always going to have the star athletes, but it’s really how you cultivate the rest of your team so that they show up every day ready to work. That really is going to carry the team through the season and help them succeed.