Over the last several weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a successful athlete and reflecting on how good of a job we’re doing at cultivating these qualities in our athletes.
Running a sports performance facility puts us in a great position to influence an athlete’s physical development, which will have a profound effect on their overall athletic development. With the teams we work with, however, I think we also have a great opportunity to influence the athletes’ character and the overall team dynamic.
With this in mind, at our staff meeting last Friday I threw 60 seconds on the clock and I, along with the rest of our coaches, wrote down every word/phrase that came to mind when we thought of a great teammate.
The activity was interesting as most of us came up with similar or complimentary concepts. It also sparked a good conversation on how we can better instill these qualities in our athletes.
Below are 10 of the top qualities of a great teammate, and what every youth athlete should aspire to represent!
1) Effort: I always come back to the idea that there are a lot of things you can’t control as an athlete, but your effort is never one of them. The only way to get better is to consistently apply yourself to your fullest ability. This not only makes you better, it makes the teammates around you better as well.
2) Honesty: All great relationships are built on honesty. As an athlete, there is nothing more frustrating to your teammates and your coaches than not knowing whether you’re telling the truth or not. If you made a mistake, own up to it.
3) Humility: Whether you’re the best or worst athlete on any given roster, you’re still part of a TEAM. A team may have a few “stars”, but the success of the team is dependent upon the whole group. Always think of your successes as part of a team effort and be quick to share praise with the rest of your teammates.
4) Responsibility: My coach at the University of Delaware once said to us “this program was here long before you guys were and will be here long after you leave.” All of your actions, within and away from the team, are a representation of the organization/team you play for. Take responsibility for your behavior and actions as if you have a younger brother or sister that will model everything you do (even when you’re away from the team). You never know who is looking at you for cues on how to behave.
5) Family Atmosphere: The best teams I’ve ever played for, both in terms of the team’s success and how enjoyable the season was, have always felt more like a family than just a group of teammates. It’s more fun to go compete with a group of people you know have your back and will support you through tough times. Everyone makes mistakes; this is inevitable. When teams have players that are quick to point out the errors of others and tie how they treat a player to his/her performance on any given day, the team unravels quickly. Support your teammates like family.
6) Resiliency: Every season has its ups and downs. Every team will face adversity. The GREAT teams thrive on adversity, are motivated by it, and use temporary defeats as an opportunity to grow and improve. As an athlete, pride yourself on being resilient. Your behavior is contagious and ultimately exhibiting this quality will lead to a mentally tougher team.
7) Leadership: In youth sports, unfortunately, leadership roles are often given to the most talented athletes. The reality is that EVERY athlete on a team can be a leader in some way. Leadership comes in a lot of different forms, not all of which are vocal. When I work with youth teams, I often ask athletes “Is what you’re doing right now going to make your team better or worse?” If you can always answer “better”, you’re leading the team in a positive direction. If you’re not a captain, you can still be a leader. Lead with your actions. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Exhibit the qualities you want every one of your teammates to exhibit.
8) Respect: This is simple, but incredibly important. Respect your teammates. Respect your coaches. Respect your facilities. Clean up after yourself. Shake your coach’s hand when you see him/her. Say thank you to teammates. These little gestures go a long way in creating a culture of mutual respect, which is key to long-term success.
9) Optimism: Nothing can be more cancerous to a team than someone that is constantly pointing out what’s wrong with a player or the team as a whole. Look for the good in everything your teammates do. Emphasis is a form of reinforcement. If you harp on the negatives, they’re more likely to be repeated. Positives give you something to build from, and focusing on these will help reinforce positive behaviors/actions in yourself and all of your teammates.
10) Desire to Improve: Simply, never be satisfied with where you’re at. There is always room for improvement, and the harder you work toward improving yourself, the harder your teammates will work to do the same.
Whether you’re an athlete or a coach, you’re still part of a team. Think of how good of a job you do exhibiting the qualities above consistently and work to improve in any areas you’re lacking.
If you have any comments about how you’ve successfully cultivated these characteristics in yourself, your teammates, or players (as a coach), feel free to post them below!
To your success,
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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team
“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.