Leave a Legacy: Being the Best Teammate you can be
You never forget your teammates, especially the great ones. Any adult who played sports as a child could probably name two or three teammates they recall fondly from their playing career.
In life there are all kinds of different relationships we all form. One of the more unique relationship experiences exists in the world of sports. Teammates and how well in-tune they are with each other can be a determining factor in success.
That makes teammate-to-teammate relationships extremely important. Being a good teammate to the other members of your team can carry over and create life-long friendships.
Teammates are Selfless
One of the biggest causes for conflict between teammates occurs when there is a perceived lack of respect for the team from one or more of the members.
For those who are heavily involved and invested, both physically and mentally– seeing teammates not take things as seriously as they do can be very demoralizing and create a rift in the locker room.
If there are members of the team who are only in it for themselves, teammate chemistry can take a major hit.
Jack Clark, a legendary rugby coach at the University of California Berkeley, says that he intentionally recruits players he believes bring a team-first attitude.
“Somebody that is team oriented is probably at the beginning of the list. Somebody who wants to be on a team, that the pursuit of the team’s success is important to them. Their best sporting memories are in a team setting,” Clark explains.
“That takes a degree of selflessness, you know? You have to be willing to put the team before yourself and lose yourself in the team. If you’re not willing to do that, it’s problematic,” says Clark. “I’m not saying that there is any one thing that draws a line through someone’s name, but I am interested in people who are team-oriented.”
Selflessness in a team setting is so important, because it shows that everyone is committed to the success of the team as a whole.
As a teammate, you never want to be accused of not being a team player. That is a reputation that can stick with you wherever you go.
According to former Tampa Bay Ray and current Baltimore Oriole pitcher Alex Cobb, those teammates who go above and beyond leave a lasting legacy and with all the teams and teammates they play with.
“I think being a good teammate covers all of those things. When I look back and think back on some of those guys that kind of have that name tag on them– those are the people whose legacy lasts longer in the game,” Cobb says.
“You bring up somebody’s name like Johnny Damon or David Price and the first thing people say is, ‘Wow, what a great teammate that guy was.’ They’re superstars in the category of being a good teammate,” says Cobb. “And it’s not easy because there’s rutts you go through in this game and you want to go sit in the corner of the dugout and really sulk and feel bad for yourself.”
Johnny Damon and David Price were all-star level players, but according to Cobb, they were also all-star level teammates.
“Especially David, I can remember tough moments of his career where he’s coming out the next day and he’s still the loudest guy– on the front step, cheering you on as you’re walking off the mound,” Cobb recalls. “I think that’s at the end of the day, what you want to be thought as when you take the uniform off.”
Make-up of a Good Teammate
Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, in a post she wrote for Psychology Today describes what she sees as the four key dimensions all teammates should have.
Although the post was written in terms of teamwork in the workplace, the message can be translated and utilized in sports as well.
Here is a look at each dimension and the traits she believes good teammates possess in each of them:
Dimension 1: Identity– Teammates have goals consistent with that of their team, and they feel like they belong. You are able to perform in the role you are assigned, but can adapt to the team’s needs if necessary. A good teammate will be committed to the team and are a key part of the teamwork-friendly atmosphere.
Dimension 2: Communication– It’s important for teammates to be able to ask and provide information from others. This requires a good teammate to get along with others.
Dimension 3: Performance– A good teammate can identify and plan tasks that need to get done, often reaching a consensus with their fellow teammates. Accomplishing what is asked of you is vital as well. If there is something you feel you can’t handle by yourself, don’t be afraid to confide in your teammates and ask for help.
Dimension 4: Regulation– The best teammates can detect conflicts before they arise, and work with others to alleviate the situation. This requires the ability to negotiate with their teammates and reach friendly agreements. Also, it is always helpful to have a teammate who suggests, and helps contribute to improvement for the whole group.
Teammates as Friends and Leaders
Finally, good teammates rise to be leaders on their teams and make friends with everyone on the team that they can.
“The teammate is the best kind of friend. The teammate is the friend who is not only on your side, but makes you do better than you think you can. The teammate has your back. The teammate is your equal. And the best thing about the teammate is you can have more than one,” Madora Kibbe writes for Psychology Today.
The best teammates become leaders on their team. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter that that teammate is someone who sees the field.
Abby Wambach, one of the most decorated athletes in United States history, found herself in a unique and unfamiliar situation during her final Women’s World Cup in 2015.
Wambach had dominated Women’s soccer for over a decade, scoring more goals in international play than anyone in history, man or woman.
When the 2015 World Cup rolled around, the USWNT needed Wambach to embrace a new role, and had her coming off the bench, as opposed to a starter in the team’s lineup.
For a player with the history and resume of Wambach, this would normally be seen as a slight to their confidence, and bad teammates would use this opportunity to sulk and wither away on the bench.
However, Wambach used the opportunity to lead from the bench, bringing the same fire and energy her National Team teammates had come to expect from her over the years.
She cheered her teammates on and shouted strategies from the bench, never feeling sorry for herself or letting the demotion bring her down.
“You’ll feel benched sometimes, too. You’ll be passed over for the promotion, taken off the project—you might even find yourself holding a baby instead of a briefcase—watching your teammates ‘get ahead’, Wambach said during a commencement speech for Barnard University, “Here’s what’s important. You are allowed to be disappointed when it feels like life’s benched you. What you are not allowed to do is to miss your opportunity to lead from the bench.”
Be a good teammate, and your legacy will last with those who shared the field with you.