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The ME in TEAM and the I in WIN

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We are all familiar with the axiom that there’s no “I” in team. We often remind our players of the need to work with and for the others, not just for themselves.

That makes a lot of sense because “selfish” players can disrupt a team on and off the pitch.

But, as with many of these sporting platitudes (like “perfect practice makes perfect” or “fail to prepare is preparing to fail”), the impact of saying “there’s no I in TEAM” is minimal on an individual. It washes over them because it doesn’t come with any bite.

Bite? Yes, bite is a good word to use. A dog can bark and a dog can bite. We also know that we can be seen as a coach whose “bark is worse than their bite”.

If we want to make change happen we need to have some bite in what we say. That’s why there is most definitely a ME in TEAM.

More bite

Be bold in your coaching and concentrate on the individual first and foremost. Though it’s a team game, individuals need to more than contribute to the team effort, they have to make themselves the centre of the team effort.

In other words, the team revolves around them and not the other way around.

If they feel they are merely contributing to the team, they are just as ready to share the collective excuses for a poor performance as to bask in the glory. Their edge and desire to be more successful is muted somewhat.

And, as a consequence of this situation, they aren’t taking responsibility for making better decisions. They can hide when you, in fact, want them to take charge of the situation.

The player before the team

Yet, does this sound like a team game approach? Say your 11 players are all just playing for themselves? Well, this is the clever part. Every good decision that benefits the player benefits the team. A strong tackle by a defender can lead to a turnover of possession which benefits the midfield player who can make a telling pass to a wing back who is running into space.

All good decisions are selfish decisions, but not all selfish decisions are good decisions. A decision that increases personal glory at the expense of team glory will quickly reveal itself to the individual as something that diminishes that personal glory. The rest of the team will make that pretty clear (or they should do).

A good decision that means the team succeeds, if only for that moment. The player will feel empowered because it was their decision and be happy for the success. They’ve achieved something for themselves though that might be expressed as a goal for the team that they had a part in. “It was my dribble to beat two players that opened up the space to allow us to score a goal”.

Put the player in the centre

A second thread in this individualist approach is to think that there is an I in the middle of WIN. Again, a team cannot prosper in the long run if it relies on just a few individuals. Each player has to think they have to play to their best ability. They take responsibility for that in the end. They cannot simply be “carried” by the team.

Of course, there will be days when an individual makes mistakes which are put right by another team mate. As long as the individual is focused on their own responsibility, they will understand that they will need to rectify the situation. That might mean seeking extra training, or reflecting on how they might execute the skill differently at a future date.

Bite not bark

The bite? Tell the players that every player takes responsibility for what happens to the team. It’s all about their role in the team. If they are getting the most out playing, enjoying what they do, training hard for themselves, their own rewards will be the same as the teams.

In summary, focus on coaching each individual to take more responsibility for their actions. Do this by asking them whether the consequences of the action benefit them and then whether it benefits the team. If they are aligned, you have a much stronger team player.

The I in WIN is as important as the ME in TEAM.

Make your players selfish. Make it about them. The team players will see how much they gain from the pure enjoyment of success that impacts on the group. They can only do that if they think they have a vital part in the team.

What do you think? Please let me know your thoughts by adding a comment below.

This blog is also available as a podcast on a number of platforms including Itunes. Listen here.

If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.

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Comments (1)

Great post.
As coaches evolve they can allow each player to be the best they can be AS part of a team.

In individual sports that same player can do everything they want to do, accepting responsibility and full accountability for their thoughts, emotions and behaviours. In a team there can be restrictions but that's where great coaching comes in.

Great coaches allow the ME to become greater and with 15 or 11 or whatever number of greater MEs, the team becomes greater.

Great coaches are the glue if you like.

Every player should be encouraged to "Always bring your A Game". Its also more fun for them.
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