Why winning as a team is the only way to play sports
By Nick Gustavsson
Ok so you have been on a few softball or soccer teams where there is one good kid who players much better then all the rest. Most of the games he/she carries the team and it is expected that he/she will raise to any occasion if needed. How do you deal with this as a coach? What is the reason for the team? To win right? That should be simple then. Play the good kid all the time. Wrong and here is why.
We will take a not so big step from youth sports to military training. What do they have in common? Just about everything. Lets take a look at it more closely. They both have individuals of different abilities when they start. They have one goal. Many ways to achieve it. Rules to play (or fight as it were) within. They have to hang together to be effective. And they have to like one another.
There are two aspects to a team. First its physical aspect. How fast it is. How strong and so on. Then we have the mental aspect. How well it can think. React. Keep it together. Deal with stress. You can train the first all you want but without the second you will have no chance at all to succeed. Why is this? Because we are only as good as we think we are. Allow me to illustrate with a story about children and flees. In South America children would put flees into a jar and place the lid back on. Once the flee started to jump it would bump into the lid of the jar. After only a few minutes the flee would stop jumping as high and just jump low enough to avoid the lid. At this point the flee was let out of the jar, but would never again jump higher then the lit had allowed. We are no different, we too react to limitations. We will not keep running into a locked door or try to walk on water. We learn very quickly from observation. it has long been thought that the military will break you down so they can build you up to be a robot that follows orders. That is a load of stuff for sure. Nobody is broken down ever. A broken soldier is worth nothing. A soldier who stops thinking he is better then the guy next to him, is. When you should a group of people they can do something they did not think they could, they bold through the positive experience. Don't get me wrong, they bond through negative too, but that is for another article.
The power of positive. So let's say we have to show some year olds how to be a better soccer team. Would it be better to tell them what they did wrong or to tell them what they did right? Yeah, you got it. Stick with the positive here. So in order to get them on the right track, break down the task at hand and feed them a part at a time. In the example we are trying to show them how to pass the ball more effectively. What is involved in this? Well we have the ability to understand where to shoot the ball in the first place. To the open stop or right to the player. That would depend on some guide lines so take the simpler, pass the player. Next we have the act of kicking the ball straight and hard enough. Then we have the act of receiving the ball without it bouncing off our foot and away from us.
Don't line up the group and ask them to pass one another. Why? Because you will have some kids who will ave played at home and can already do it and some that cannot. All you do is divide the team into the "can" and "cannot" groups. Fear that state, fear it with your life. Instead what you do is say, "We are going to play a new game". Make up some game that is allowing the players to perform the action you want to practice, but without the negative of "why do I have to, I already know how to shoot". This is not the time for individuals, this is the time for team. Now have all the kids do the game, make it simple enough so that they all can do it, but at the same time hard enough so that it actually helps them. Once you ave mastered this, move on to some other exercise that build upon the first. Again, keeping a keep eye out for making the whole team arrive at the goal together. All or none. Must be together.
What you will have in the end of this is a team that thinks well of each other. Where gifted player had respect for the not so gifted player because they both can do what is required. The team also needs to learn that they only get to the end by arriving together. If you have any reservations about this, just remember that if it is good enough for the special forces around the world, it is good enough for you. They train as a team, they live as a team and they win as a team.
Now go and build your team.
About the author:
Nick Gustavsson writes about sports and coaching from the perspective of team and team building. No coach should be without these powerful insights. Please visit http://bluetree.primateonline.com/youthsport/for more great tips.