Saturday, October 01, 2011

Good/Bad Teammate

I am a bandwagon fan. Having grown up in Iowa - with zero professional teams - I had no loyalties except for the Hawkeyes. I quickly found myself rooting for the Bulls, Cowboys, Yankees and Red Wings. When I moved to Wisconsin -- I found myself rooting for the Packers, Brett Favre and even the Brewers. Now that I've landed in Massachusetts -- it's all Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins. Tom Brady is cool enough, but not as good as "Touchdown Packers!"

This brings me to collapse of the Boston Red Sox last Wednesday.

"When things go bad your true colors show and I was bothered by what was showing," Francona said. "It's my responsibility to fix it."

Francona time and again over the last few days has talked about his inability to reach the players when the season was slipping away from the team.

"Don't forget, a month ago this team was on pace to win 100 games," Francona said. "When things started to go, I wanted desperately for our guys to care about each other on the field. I wasn't seeing that as much as I wanted to. I tried to help make that better, the coaches also, it just wasn't ever comfortable. You've heard me talk all the time about going in one direction and getting through challenges and meeting them together, but I just didn't think we were doing that. That's my responsibility to get them to do that and it wasn't happening to my satisfaction."

When reading this article, one line struck me in particular -- I wanted desperately for our guys to care about each other on the field.

I've been coaching a small technical school (WPI) for the past two seasons. Having played at Wisconsin and on some solid club teams -- being a good teammate was almost second nature. Yelling from the sidelines, rushing the field, picking your teammates up -- it was all part of the process of winning. It was second nature.

However, I'm dealing with freshman who have never played competitive sports and have never had to deal with the team aspect. When things are going sour, I see a bunch of players by our sideline, not paying attention, not picking up their teammates. They weren't there for each other. This affect seems to compound when the other team goes on a run. Once we are down -- we cannot pick ourselves back up. I find it ruthlessly frustrating. I try to lead by example - stalking the sideline and yelling my support.
When I ask the players why they don't contribute, the reply is, "I don't know what to say."
Something as simple as yelling their name works the majority of the time..


Joe said...

ok so I'm 2 years late on this, but this is exactly what is happening on my team. It's hardly a team really, and I don't think that stems from the lack of experience or even the low level of athleticism. It really seems to stem from the attitude of not caring about people beyond yourself. It comes in many forms: outright meanness on the sidelines to the condescending attitude some people take towards teaching new people. The old guys proliferate it without realizing and the new ones don't know better. Few people have played on a team before and so most don't even know what they are missing.
I've talked with my co-captains about fixing the problem by spreading positivity, give high fives, use mistakes to teach instead of get frustrated, etc. but it has been a challenge to turn a group of guys who play together and enjoy the sport, into a group of guys who enjoy playing with each other. A team that feed off each others' energy and support each other instead of the kind of attitude seen at summer pickup gone sour, when the players on the weak team start whispering about the drops or slowness of others. I know that in order for this team to survive at a school where it will see few recruits, and constantly struggle for comittment, that the program must have a foundation of respect and intensity. Where new players meld into the system of the team and feel like they are buying into not just a group that competes, but a family of players who will fight hard with each other at practice so that they can fight hard for each other in games.
I think the best way to lead is by example, so I will continue to demand excellence of myself as a captain and teammate. A mistake I have made too many times is focusing on these negative things instead of nurturing the overwhelming positivity present in a few people. If I can help it to flourish there it might just spread to more. A good team starts with more than the basics, it starts with a shared intensity to get better, a common goal of unceasing improvement, a shower of sparks that when brought together, burst into flame. I want that fire to continue past when I am gone, to pass off protecting it to the next captain knowing that we created it's heat and now it's blaze will be a focal point for all teammates and it will warm new people to our passion for ultimate.

Joe said...

I also think that caring about teammates on the field is at least partially related to caring about them off the field. this boils down to respect and the camaraderie it brings. It's not about being best friends with everyone on the team, but it is about valuing the hard work they put in with you. This should always be the driving force behind interactions on the team. The concept of teammate should transfer to outside ultimate too. I started moving in this direction by stealing Wisconsin's motto: discolove