How to be a Team Player

What is your focus as a member of a team?

Are you focused on personal statistics or team success? How do you react after a win when a teammate’s stats are better than yours? 

Some athletes prioritize being the team’s lead scorer, the “Top Dog,” the hero of a game, trying to lead the league in points or impressing a college coach.

While those goals may be personally significant, they should not supersede the team’s goals. In other words, winning should always be prioritized over personal statistics. When individual efforts align with a collective goal, the likelihood of team success increases.

The confusing part for some athletes is that they think the more points they score, the greater their chances of winning. However, that is not always the case.

Sometimes, your most significant contribution doesn’t show up in your stat line. Let’s illustrate how to be a team plater through the following examples. 

In baseball, there will be times when moving a baserunner into scoring position will more likely lead to a victory than trying to hit a walk-off home run.

In basketball, an extra pass to an open player is often the better option for the team than shooting contested three-pointers.

In soccer, setting up a teammate may lead to more team victories than trying to dribble the ball through two defenders.

In team sports, the philosophy should be “We before me.” Focusing on team play fosters teamwork, strategic play, and a positive environment.

One example of complementary team play is the Boston Celtics. During the 2023-24 NBA regular season, Jason Tatum led the team in scoring, averaging 26.9 points per game. Through the first two games in the NBA Finals, Tatum has found another way to contribute to the team’s success. Tatum has led the team in assists, while teammate Jaylen Brown is the team leader in points. 

After Game 2, Tatum commented that he is focused on winning a championship, not how many points he scores.

TATUM: “We’re so close to what we’re trying to accomplish. Why would I let my ego or my need to score all the points get in the way of that? We always talk about, do whatever it takes for however long it takes. If I need to have 16 potential assists every single night and that’s what puts us in the best position to win and it doesn’t mean I’m the leading scorer, by all means, if that gives us the best chance to win, sign me up.”

Winning a championship requires all players being on the same page, pulling in the same direction for one common goal. Success is only achieved when the team’s goal is the priority.

Success in team sports demands that each individual has a “Team-First” Mindset. To ensure a team mindset before a game, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What is more important to me, victory or my statistics? 
  • What is my role for this game? 
  • What is the team’s game plan? 
  • How can I best contribute to the team if my game is off?

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Focused Athlete

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“The Focused Athlete” audio and workbook program helps you or your athletes overcome distractions and sharpen your concentration during competition. You learn how to get locked in during practice and competition so you can improve and perform better.

“First, I would like to thank you for the help given to me through your programs, ‘The Confident Athlete’ and ‘The Focused Athlete.’ I have made tremendous sacrifices though all these years to become a top Olympic Trap shooter but something was missing. This missing part was with my mental game. My scores increased tremendously in record time and others said that I was a different shooter.“

~Marios Kapodistria

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