This weekend’s soccer matches demonstrated a great display of team-oriented attitudes. On Saturday, Philadelphia Union tied New England Revolution, earning one point on the road. During the game, Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, starting only his third game of the season, played an exceptional game, making ten memorable and decisive saves. In an interview after the game, his first response to how well he played was not about him, but rather about trusting and relying on his strong backline and the work the team did together. He went on to give further credit to his coach and fellow goalkeepers, saying, “I have a great goalkeeper coach I believe in, and I have two goalkeepers… that we push each other every day. For me, we can only get better.”
Further, on Sunday, LA Galaxy beat FC Dallas 3-2. Going into the half up 2-1, Galaxy’s Steven Gerrard pushed the lead to 3-1 early in the second half with a goal. That was Gerrard’s first goal since his MLS debut in July, but he didn’t focus on himself after the game. “I think the goal was good for the team,” he said. “…it’s all about three points and not about individuals, tallies and who gets what, but it’s about the team getting three points. It’s a big result for us.”
Both of these examples demonstrate the importance of valuing the accomplishments of the team over the accomplishments of any one individual. Certainly, athletes and players in team sports should work on developing their own skills, but that development should be focused on how it can be applied to benefit the team as a whole. To do this, understand your position on the team and the role that you play. Commit to deliberately training the skills that will help you execute that role. Also, put effort into building relationships with teammates. In team sports, you win together and you lose together; this process is easier when you trust those around you, and you understand and value how they contribute to the team. Just like you should know your role, try to understand the responsibilities your teammates’ have and the struggles they face when trying to accomplish their job on the field. This will give you a stronger appreciation for the work that each player does day in and day out. Make sure that you talk to teammates and ask them questions. Pay attention to what’s expected of them and the work that they put in on and off the field in order to prepare themselves physically and mentally to compete. Next time you finish a competition – whether or not you played your best – don’t forget to acknowledge the contribution each teammate made the game as well.
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