Friday, March 15, 2013

The Great Intangible -- Being a Teammate

This year's squad.

  When you're on the sideline, you tend to notice the little nuances about your team. You see the things that make it 'tick'. The good, the bad, the ugly. It amounts to being an outsider, with inside information.

  You see interactions and chemistry in a new way. Not being on the court during games and practices gives you a different perspective. The emotion of the game is taken out of it, so you can see things for what they are.

  It also makes you see and remember all the things it requires to be on a great team. And miss all the things you don't have.

  I guess it's true: "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

It's Not a Right
  I look at being on a team as a privilege. It's not a right. Especially as you grow older.

  As a kid, everyone is on a team. You sign up, you get a jersey. Easy as that. As you get older, maybe you have to try out. Teams get a more selective as the talent gets better and better. But as a pro, and even as a collegiate athlete, they ask you to be on their team.

The Intangibles
  I think there are two qualities that make or break your chances of being a member of a team as you get deeper and deeper into your playing career: 1) talent, of course, and 2) being a great teammate, having the intangibles.

  If you have both of those qualities, it's very likely you'll be asked to be a part of quite a few teams in your day. Your career will be a long one. There won't be a team out there that doesn't want you on their squad.

  If you're a talented athlete only, and not a stellar teammate, chances are you'll still be sought out quite often to be a part of a team. Pure talent overrides attitude and intangibles in many cases. But after time, your reputation will catch up with you, and the well will run dry. People, coaches, managers, etc will catch wind of your unwillingness to be a teammate first.

  On the contrary, if you're just an okay athlete, but a great teammate, your career will be just as long, if not longer. By being a great teammate, you can make up for any downfalls you have as a player. 

  What makes a great teammate?

Probably the best 'team' I've been a part of.
  Having a positive attitude is A, number one. I think it goes without saying, but you'd be surprised how often athletes are mired in negativity. Through thick and thin, a great teammate remains upbeat, and encouraging.

  Seasons are long, and there are a lot of ups and downs. Whether you're playing well, or not (or maybe not playing as much as you'd like). A great attitude can push you towards playing even better (or more).

  Looking from the outside, a negative attitude (pouting, disinterest, lack of effort, etc) is the fastest way to get yourself a selfish player label. 

Tireless Worker
  Great work ethic and positivity go hand in hand. And often times, they're both contagious. You talk, your teammates talk. You go out of your way to help a fallen teammate up, they're going to be more apt to do the same. You see your teammate working their tail off, you turn it up a few notches, to either match their effort, or surpass it.

  And a hard working team can't help but be successful. 

Make Your Teammates Look Good
  You make your teammates better players. I think it's a teammate's responsibility to do everything they can to help their other teammates succeed. Rotating over to help out on defense (there's nothing worse than seeing an opponent stroll in for an uncontested layin because no one rotated to help). Setting a solid screen (even if it hurts). Making a perfect pass, so all they have to do is put the ball in the bucket.

  Being a great teammate is also the willingness to go the extra mile (or kilometer, since I'm in Europe) for your teammates every time you step onto the court.

  Each member of a team has a role. No matter how big, or how small , for a team to be successful, those roles have to be fulfilled each and every time the ball goes up. You want to pull your own weight, do your job and not let your teammates down.

  Look at your role as your job. In order to do your job, first, you need to know your role. What is expected of you? What are your team's strategies, both offensively and defensively? To me, letting down a trusting teammate is the worst feeling on the basketball court.

Intangibles lead to celebrations -- Como.
Team First
  Putting the success of your team before your individual success. Are you trying to win the game, or are you trying to score 20 points?

  Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little personal success for the betterment of the team. Whether it'd be playing fewer minutes, making the extra pass, taking a tough defensive assignment, or maybe playing a different role than the one you initially had in mind (all the while keeping a good attitude), there are numerous ways to sacrifice for the good of your team.

  You cannot play with yourself, and only yourself, in mind. If you do, you might as well go play tennis, or golf.

  Through all these elements, you and your teammates develop a trust. A trust that you'll be there when the chips are down. Whether you're tired, hurting, or on the contrary, completely healthy, you'll be there. They can count on you, and you can count on them. It has to go both ways.

  And trust, to me, is the crucial key to playing on a successful team. But it all starts from you striving to be a great teammate first.

  It's not always easy, but it'll be well-worth it!

  Playing on a team, and having great teammates, is a special situation. I think I've taken it for granted when my teams have had 'it'. But not every team has it -- where each member is striving to be a better teammate. It's what separates good teams from bad. And great teams from good.

  But it's those the teams, those seasons, you remember with a smile.


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