Every season, the dynamic of your team changes: seniors leave, freshmen join, new athletes try out and positions are tweaked. These changes can serve as a catalyst for improving team compatibility.
According to Dr. Aimee Kimball, sports psychologist and director of mental training in the Sports Medicine Department of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the best way to foster teamwork is by creating a team mentality while also respecting each individual. “With teams, you have to get a general idea of what that team needs,” she says, “so I try to create a culture . . . by talking about [individual and collective] goal setting [and] commitment…but also introduce them to mental training tools that they can apply.” Here, Kimball passes along two of those tools.
Each player’s personality has an impact on the overall success of the team. To understand everyone’s unique contribution, Kimball suggests identifying the different personalities that exist on the team and discussing how each one is important to the team’s success.
“Somebody who’s very analytical [and] asks a lot of questions [is] really important to help the team learn,” she says. “[Also], if you have a personality that’s kind of fun [and] doesn’t always pay attention, you need that to keep the team exciting.”
By identifying each personality, you can establish motivators for each other as well as for the team.
Start every season by having each team member articulate what it takes to succeed, then figure out how each player fits in to achieve that success. “These aren’t necessarily performance characteristics,” Kimball says. “These are things like leadership, accountability [and] responsibility.”
By making sure everyone plays a role in setting the team’s overall goals, you learn to respect each other and play better together. “Having a common goal is important because that’s when [you] realize, ‘We might not be best friends, but we’re working together to reach [the same goal].’ When [you] can at least respect each other, that’s important,” Kimball says.