When I played basketball in high school, my coach always used to say, “we ( the team) are only as good as the weakest player on the team.” Meaning that in order to have success on the team, we must use each individual’s strengths and work together to accommodate the weaknesses. That high school coach preached the importance of teamwork, whether during practice, games or off-site events in order to understand each person to the greatest extent as an athlete and an individual off-the-court. Basketball is a great sport that helped me develop skills, such as teamwork, that was applicable to other areas in my life.
The reason why we put our children into youth sports is to not only learn how to play the game, but also to develop and obtain certain skills that can be transferable into everyday life. One of those skills being developed through sport is teamwork and can be greatly applied to other areas in the child’s life, such as school, home, and eventually at work.
Teamwork can be defined as individuals working together to achieve a common goal. When working as a team, a member who is “weaker” compared to the rest, may still be able to step-up in times of need and become great at that moment. In sports, teamwork is essential to achieving a victory as it requires the effort of every member on the team.
Young athletes are able to develop a number of skills through sports that coincide with teamwork such as cooperation and social skills. Working together on a sports team, enables children to start developing relationships with teammates over a common shared interest – the love of sports! Secondly, working together promotes cooperation between coaches and young athletes. Being able to listen to all ideas from each individual person, increases confidence levels of that young athlete and promotes creativity within the team.
Within basketball, this idea of teamwork is essential to creating a positive environment for all members of the team to operate and maybe even acquire some wins on the season. Even at the higher levels of the game, such as college and the NBA, teamwork is still a huge part of the game and teams do not perform well when it is just a “one-man show.”
The main reason why the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors are such dominate teams is because of the high passing percentage – allowing each team member to touch the ball, making the defense work harder and therefore creating shot opportunities for the open player. On the other hand, a great team such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, has so many ball-dominant players such as Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George that a lot of the times the ball does not move around as quickly, with one person doing the majority of the scoring on the team. A team that looks so good on paper, is not performing to the expectations, possibly because the lack of passing and movement of the basketball. Do you agree?
There are many ways for coaches and parents to effectively promote teamwork on a sports team, some ideas may include:
Encourage players to congratulate teammates
- Whether someone scores the last basket before the buzzer or makes a great pass, ensure teammates are cheering each other on and supporting one another
- Even those that are not on the floor at the time they can be cheering from the sidelines and encouraging their teammates playing the game
Praise team effort
- As a coach, ensure the players know that working together as a team is beneficial to the group as a whole – creates a positive atmosphere
- The more that we applaud team effort, the young athletes will realize that those behaviors make coaches, parents, referees happy, and will therefore continue to exhibit these actions
Rotate the captains
- From a coaching perspective, it is important to not just pick one or two players as the captains for the whole season as that may raise competition levels throughout the team – creating a negative environment
- Rather, allow each player on the team to be the captain, whether in practice or in the game, that way, children share responsibilities of leadership in different situations through the course of the season
Cheer for all athletes, not just yours
- From a parent’s perspective, it is important to cheer for your own child and you want to see them succeed, but ensure that you aren’t just rooting for your young athlete, but other players as well
- Enhances the idea of the team and that parents support each individual contributing to the game
- With that said, when the game is done, congratulate all members of the team and of course your own child
- Shows your young athlete that you notice that sports are a team effort and not just a one-person game – everyone did something to contribute during the game
Schedule team events off the court or field
- Allowing the athletes to get to know each other on a personal level encourages the development of social skills, trust, and fun
- Making friends through sport is another benefit of participating in sport – especially at a young age
- The better the athletes know each other away from the sport, the more “connected” they will feel when playing the game
There are many ways that teamwork can be enhanced throughout the season and is an ongoing skill that should be reinforced through all practices and games by coaches and parents. Teamwork is one of the many skills that young children and athletes of all ages are able to learn through sport as the powerful vehicle to master these skills.
“The strength of the team is each individual member, the strength of each member is the team” – Pat Riley
Please feel free to comment your thoughts, stories, and opinions on teamwork and how you are incorporating this skill into the young athlete’s life!
Chery Bennett is the Domestic Development Intern at Canada Basketball. She is currently pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Sport Business Management at Humber College, and has a passion for basketball and a former athlete within the sport.