I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Monday, October 29, 2012

Teamwork: Putting it All Together

In order to have a winner, the team must have a feeling of unity; every player must put the team first-ahead of personal glory. -Paul “Bear” Bryant

I have learned a great deal from my conversations with people about the lessons they have taken from football. Many of the kids I heard from told me how much they had learned about playing their position and improving their football technique. The adults were more reflective on things, as you would expect, and I appreciate their insights on the lessons of discipline, determination, humility and respect as important parts of sportsmanship and success in football. The final theme that people discussed was teamwork.

Football is the ultimate of team sports. One football play has so many moving parts and its success is solely reliant on the trust of each guy doing their specific job. Most importantly, football is truly a game of discipline and adversity, and success depends on how both of these are handled. If these two components are taught and learned, not only does success come on a field but it provides a foundation to be successful in all facets of life. --Jed S. 

I was fortunate to attend a high school that constantly preached the team first mentality. My coach was able to get the players to realize that we were not good enough to beat teams with individual talent, and our only hope for success was to play as one unit. Early failures and late success helped our team realize that our coach was right.

Those early experiences helped me understand the greatest part of football is the sense of accomplishment as a team. There are so many people who contribute during a season. It is an awesome feeling when people can see how their contributions are only one facet of the complete workings of a team. When athletes understand that their teammates were working as hard if not harder than they were so that everyone would have the opportunity to reach the team goal, a major step in maturing as an athlete and a person occurs. It is an important lesson for kids to learn that they can achieve much more working together than they ever would working alone.

A critical aspect of working as a team is the ability to do whatever is asked to make the team better: 

To be selfless is the most important thing I've learned about football. It doesn't matter what level you are, or what your involvement is with the team, if you are selfless then you are making the team better. To me, being selfless means so many things. It means as a player you want to do everything you can to make the team better. It means that during the off season you train as hard as you can to be the best player you can be. It means that if you aren't a starter you cheer the team on with a good attitude as if you were in the game. People have to understand that we weren't all created with the same abilities so there could be someone more talented than you. And that's fine because I guarantee there is a place on the team where everyone will succeed. --Chad C.

A team’s success requires individuals that are truly willing to be selfless and sacrifice for the greater good. I have been a part of many great teams and with each of them, the first thing you recognize is that every great team plays as one. Every player and coach accepts his role and buys into the team goals and the team strategy for achieving those goals. Setting egos and individual goals aside is not easy, but the satisfaction that comes from the team effort and experience is well worth it.

Parents and coaches can help kids understand that every position on the field matters, and every kid on the field and on the sidelines contributes to the end result. Help them to see that it takes every single player fulfilling his role in order to find success. Great satisfaction comes not from individual performance, but in caring about their teammates enough to set individual needs aside and trust each other to achieve something bigger than they ever could alone.

Kids who understand the value of working together, sacrificing for the greater good, and winning or losing graciously as a team will have learned one of the most valuable lessons of sportsmanship...and some valuable life lessons as well.

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