When we talk standout athletes, we typically think of players who can run, jump and throw better than everyone else. We are awed by LeBron James making an improbable dunk, or Dak Prescott avoiding three sacks to make an incredible pass down the field. Those guys (and others like them) certainly have an athletic gift, and they have taken advantage of it by working on their skills day in and day out.
But there are also ways you can stand out to your coach that have nothing to do with the stat sheet. These acts may seem inconsequential in the moment to some, but they’re an important part of building a winning, respectful culture. Here are five little ways an athlete can stand out to those around them, none of which require any talent.
1. Know and Use Everyone’s Name
You want to earn people’s respect? Use their names. Know your teammates and coaches by name, that part is easy. But don’t stop there! There are many more people involved with you playing your sport in a safe, enjoyable environment outside of just your coaches and teammates. Introduce yourself to the grounds crew, the custodial workers, the food staff and every other employee who makes your job a little easier.
Having a great organization is more than just the team or players on the field. Great organizations are great from the top down. Step one to standing out is knowing and using names as often as possible. If you happen to forget someone’s name, it’s OK to politely ask for a reminder. Using people’s names when you interact with them helps build stronger, deeper relationships than referring to everyone by “man,” “dude,” or something similar.
2. Say Thank You
Athletes often get all the credit, but we all know there are people behind the scenes who have helped develop them. Be grateful, be appreciative and thank every single person that has helped you. It could be a coach who’s helped you for the past 10 years or someone who was nice enough to reply when you reached out via email with a question. It’s always important to be grateful. When people know you appreciate their sacrifice, they will always be more inclined to help you in the future. Step two to standing out is genuinely saying “Thank you.”
3. Be a Great Teammate
Being a great teammate can be hard at times. Sure, when the season is going perfect and your team is racking up win after win, giving praise and high fives is easy. But how do you react when things take a turn for the worse?
- Maybe you aren’t playing well, but your teammate is having the best game of their life. Are you going to pout about your performance or be the first to congratulate your teammate?
- Your teammate just made a mistake that led to a loss. Are you going to criticize them or are you going to be the first one to put your arm around them and assure them it will be OK?
- You aren’t playing. Are you going to be despondent on the bench or be engaged and supportive of your teammates?
It’s so easy to be excited when things are going well, but how do you act in the face of adversity? Step three to standing out is being a great teammate, during both the good times and the bad.
4. Clean Up Your Mess
I love research and data. I love things that allow me to back up claims and show proof. Unfortunately, there is not a stat or data point that shows cleaning up after yourself equates to being a better athlete. You’ll just have to take my word for it and trust me, because I believe there’s a direct correlation between those who clean up their own mess and those who are successful.
James Kerr, the author of the book Legacy, calls this “Sweep the Sheds.” Whether it be picking up water cups after the game, towels in the locker room or trash from your bench area, “sweep the sheds” and clean up your mess after a game or practice. Take pride in where you’ve been and show respect for those who will follow you. If you don’t have enough respect to clean up a mess you’ve made, you will never have what it takes to be a champion. If you make a mess and leave it for someone else to clean, your actions say “I’m above that. I’m above cleaning up the mess I’ve made.” While you might not think these words, your actions speak those words. On the flip side, cleaning up after yourself speaks words like “grateful,” “humble” and “disciplined.” Step four to standing out is cleaning up your mess.
5. Be the Most Positive Person in the Room
There is something magical about positive people. Whether we know it or not, we all want to be around people who are positive. Nothing will drain morale and put a damper on a practice, game or season like negativity. You won’t play your best every game, you won’t impress the scouts with every pitch or hit, but one thing that is possible every game and every day is having a positive attitude. Negative attitudes are poisonous. They drain self-belief and assign blame. That poison can ruin a team. Be the athlete who creates a positive culture and continue to develop that positive culture day in and day out. Even after a loss, what positives can be taken from that experience? Step five to standing out is being the most positive person in the room.
Although each of these acts may seem like a little thing at first glance, when you do them day in and day out and stack them on top of each other, they make a big difference. These five steps are what great leaders do, and it makes them stand out to their coaches, teammates, training staff, school staff, etc.
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