Qualities of a Great Teammate

When I work with teams, they always want to know how to make the team better, obviously. The truth is, however, before a team can get better as a whole, the players, as individuals, must learn how to be a good teammate. For a team to be successful, a group of individuals must learn to work as a unit and build unbreakable trust. They must respect each other and put their egos aside so that the entire team can thrive. To have a great team, you must first be a great teammate and the rest will fall into place.

Here are some of the most important qualities of a great teammate.

 

A great teammate:

 

  1. Takes responsibility– When things go wrong do not blame others for the shortcoming, you look them in the eye and admit to your faults. Admitting your faults makes it more likely your team will continue to trust you and give you a fair amount of opportunities.
  2. Listens and learns– Know when to keep your mouth shut and just hear what everyone else is saying. Listen to understand, do not listen to respond. Knowing how to receive feedback is a huge part of growth.
  3. Communicates- If you need something say something, if you see something speak up. Nothing can get accomplished if no one is communicating their plan, needs or concerns effectively. Keep in mind there is a right time and right place for important conversations, so that just like you need to listen, your athlete can listen to you as well.
  4. Knows their role– Don’t step on each other toes. If someone is the lead or captain let them play their role. If it is not your position, try your best to not overstep your boundaries. This shows your teammates that you have trust in their abilities to get the job done and doesn’t seem condescending.
  5. Has their teammates back– Do not publicly speak bad about other teammates especially when they are not around. When they are being attacked step up for them and support them.
  6. Committed to the team– When you are on a team, that team should have your loyalty. A great teammate does not speak down or negatively of their team to others and constantly brings their best foot forward every day. For a team to be successful each member needs to bring 100% every day.
  7. Is confident– Not only do you have to believe in your team but individually you need to believe in yourself. Confidence can be contagious, but not only that, how do you expect others to believe in you when you don’t even believe in yourself.
  8. Knows when to fall back– Sometimes you must allow for others to shine even if that means stepping back. Sometimes your opinions don’t matter and sometimes it is not about you so allow others to have the spotlight.
  9. Knows how to have fun– All work and no play leads to burnout, know how to lighten the mood and enjoy what you’re doing. Positive emotions and energy is contagious and will spread throughout the team. Enjoying what you’re doing allows for you to enter flow faster and from there everything just starts to click.
  10. Knows their teammates– A good teammate knows the strengths of their teammates but are also aware of where they may fall short and can be ready to step in and help. They also know the best ways to show appreciation to their teammates and can be attuned to their needs.

 

 

 

 

Dear Draftee

 

Dear Draftee,

 

This honestly must be the most exciting time of year for me. Draft season brings a certain  amount of excitement and anxiety for every sport fan, that to me is only matched the morning of the championship game. No one however, faces as much excitement and anxiety as the prospects and their families. To so many this has been a dream that they have had their entire lives and they are so close to that dream becoming reality, so close to their lives changing forever. Every day you look on social media your notifications are overflowed with fans and haters making predictions of where you will (or will not) end up and while you keep an unfazed face, it’s hard to not let all those comments go to heart to some extent. So, my advice to you is to not care at all. I know that sounds much easier said than done and you probably think I’m crazy but the point is it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter what number you are drafted and it doesn’t matter where you go, all that truly matters is what you do once you get to that destination. We all know athletes who went first and never amounted to anything and we all can name athletes who became some of the greatest of all time ( Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers) and they were nowhere near the top draft picks. What is important and what you do need to focus on are the following two things:

  1. What you will do once you get there:

Just because a team has picked you that does not mean that countless hours of work and dedication end. In fact, they are just beginning, the grind really starts now and now is the time to prove what you can do. The world is now watching, they want to be you and it is up to you to show them why you are where you are. Even when things aren’t going as planned you cannot stop striving for the top spot. The difference between those who change the game and those who disappear is the ability to overcome and keep pushing. For some of you, you have always been the best and it could be a rude awakening that now you are tiny fish in ocean full of sharks, DO NOT GIVE UP, WORK HARDER. Wherever you go there are people behind you that believe in you and want you to grow and dominate and be grateful in that. You will end up where the most growth and biggest lessons will occur, so trust the process.

  1. What is your motivation to continue playing:

I’ve discussed motivation several times throughout my blogs and it comes down to this. No matter where you go don’t forget why you started competing in the first place. This isn’t the end and you need to use that motivation to continue to drive through the next level. If your motivation was solely to make it then find new motivation that is internal to who you are and not just something that can be checked off a list. Remember the reason that you first touched that ball, think about why you kept playing and remember that often. Set goals that at first may seem unachievable and constantly work towards them. Find ways and meanings that will constantly make you fall in love with playing and the sport all over again. While you are living your dream some days will feel like nightmares and getting back to why you love what you do in the first place can make all the difference in the long run.

Congratulations on making it thus far in your journey. People across the world would give anything they have be in your position, so don’t take that for granted. Remember that no matter what happens you cannot stop striving to be the greatest you can be, this is just  a moment , not the end.

Self-esteem Vs Self efficacy

Something that I have seen getting confused a lot lately is the difference between self-esteem and self efficacy especially when it comes to building confidence and how we praise. I just wanted to post a short abridged version in hopes that it clears up the differences.

One of my favorite quotes has always been “hard work beats effort when effort fails to work hard”. If that is true then why is it that our society is so focused on building self-esteem rather than praising the effort and hard work people put in to be truly great?

Let’s start with a few definitions for clarification:

Self-esteem is essentially your feelings of self-worth. This leads us to associate what we accomplish to be a part of who we are .

Self-efficacy is your perceived ability to perform a task. This is your confidence in getting a performance done.

Why does this even matter to your growth in performance?

We often work to build self- esteem by praising the end result and giving credit to “fixed” qualities ( “you’re so athletic” “ you’re smart”  or “you’re talented “ but rarely praise the effort and strategies that were used to create the success. When an athlete has a successful performance and they credit that success to fixed qualities they have a much harder time with failure and lose. One of our most vital ways to build confidence is persuasion from others. When people are constantly telling us that we are “smart”, we are “talented”, we start to associate that with our self-identity, we see that as who we are and what we have to offer. When we fail its very common to associate those failures as a part of who we are and global and not a temporary moment that we can overcome. However if we spend just as much time ( or even more) praising the effort and strategies used to be successful then even when we fail we know what can be fixed and that we have the capability to do it. We don’t associate failure as a part of who I am but rather just a part of the process and are better mentally capable of bouncing back better than before.

We should not be using the praising of effort as a new method to build self-esteem but as a way to increase effort and self-efficacy.  By no means is effort the only answer to success but it is the key to mastery and growth. If we remember the process and the hard work as we perform, whether we succeed or fail, we can bounce back and continue our journey to greatness.

 

Supporting your injured athlete

Being injured sucks, we all know that, but sometimes when we are not the one working through the injury we often fail to sympathize with injured and can often leave them feeling worse. It is by no means that we do that intentionally but life keeps moving and sometimes we leave people behind. However, it is very crucial to the athlete working through the injury to have a strong support network that will ultimately help them heal faster and get back to the competition soon.

Far too often I have athletes tell me how they feel alone or as if they have little to no support helping them through the process. The reality is, most people don’t understand how to help, even if they have recovered from injuries before. I have compiled a list of  what I find to be some of the most helpful tips and pointers to remember so that you can be supportive in helping your athlete, your teammate, your friend fully recovers and return to what they love to do.

  1. Injured athletes often go through the same grieving process as someone who is dealing with a death.

I’m not going to go into the entire grieving process but it is very important to realize that athletes may be in denial sometimes or depressed and may take time to accept. If someone is a true athlete, their sport is a part of their self-identity and, even if just temporary being injured is like losing a core piece of who you are. It is much easier said than done to not let it get them down. Be patient and understanding the emotional roller coaster your athlete may be going through.

  1. High levels of stress and anxiety prolongs the healing process.

It is very common for injured athletes to experience extreme levels of fear, depression, anxiety and anger. Be understanding of that emotional roller coaster. The more stress that we are under the longer it takes our bodies to heal ad recover. Stress has an impact on every aspect of our body and slows down the healing process or can hinder a full recovery. Do not put added pressure on them to heal and return to the game and remind them that their bodies need time.

  1. Keep them involved.

Do not let the injured athlete feel like they are being isolated and like they are no longer apart of the sport just because they are injured. Find creative ways to keep them involved. That may be making them a captain, allowing them to do some practice coaching, letting them participate in noncontact practice drills or giving them a special role that doesn’t feel like just busy work. Still allow them come to practice, be in the huddles, travel to away games and take part in team activities so they can have as much of that connection as possible.

  1. Set outside goals.

Help them think about life outside of the sport and consider things they want to accomplish. This could be items on their bucket list or academic goals but whatever it may be by setting new goals you are allowing the athlete to continue their competitive nature and channel it into something else. The sport will temporarily not be the center of their world and this is the best time to try and grow in other aspects of your life.

  1. Tryout new hobbies with the athlete.

Encourage your athlete to be willing to try new things and hobbies and most importantly be willing to go with them so they don’t feel alone. This allows for the athlete to get their mind off of the sport for a little while and find something else they may be passionate about. Take a painting class, cooking class or search for a local meet up in the area. Sports often consume our lives as an athlete and while that is temporarily not an option it is the perfect time for athletes to discover what else they may be interested in.

  1. Talk to them about how they are doing outside the sport.

When an athlete is injured most of their daily conversations are surrounded around the injury. They are constantly being asked how they feel and when they will return and this is not helping them heal. While these conversations often come from a good place it just causes more stress. Talk to them about anything else as often as possible, that doesn’t mean ignoring their injury, but show them you care about them as a person and not just them as an athlete.

 

Dear Parents: Are you applying to much pressure?

 

 

While parents often have the best of intentions when it comes to their athletes, sometimes they can be unintentionally adding too much pressure. That added pressure can lead to a decrease in performance as well as a decrease in the overall enjoyment of the sport. Before we get to much into it we must first define what pressure means because it can commonly misused. Pressure is the perception that something is at stake depended solely on the outcome of the performance. This means that not only is pressure in your head it creates stress that is counterproductive to your performance and manifest both psychologically and physiologically. The following are the 3 most common sources of pressure that parents put on their athletes and how to prevent it.

Support:

I know that it may seem crazy that support can add pressure to an athlete but is that way that we give support that can be counterproductive. The athlete must know that your support and love are not contingent on how well they perform but that you are their number one fan no matter the outcome. It is important to not teach them that your interactions will differ if they fail. Pressure creates stress and the more stress that we are under the more we resort back to our most basic needs, in this case, fear of abandonment. The athlete is more likely to move away from focusing on automatic execution and be more focused on how they look and how others are judging them. Be as equally supportive when they fail or fall short as you would be when they succeed and remind them that you support them no matter what they do.

 

Rewards:

Growing up my parents would often reward me for having a good game or based on my stats and while that was motivating at first, when I did have an off game in it created too much anxiety. When a reward is contingent solely on how we perform it increases our stress levels and causes counterproductive anxiety. It can eventually lead to lack of sportsmanship and the desire to cheat or be overly competitive so that they can receive the reward. If the reward is not met on a consistent basis or removed from the equation it can lead to a lack of effort. It can also lead to a breakdown in confidence if they fail to meet the qualifications for their reward, even if they still made improvements or performed well. I was often paid for points scored in a game which would turn my focus solely towards points and neglected how many rebounds, steals or assists that I had or that we won the game. It is okay to reward athletes for doing a good job and working hard but it should not be used as a motivator prior to the performance especially for long terms.

 

Rivalry:

Rivalry is a huge creator of pressure especially when it is created by others. In this case, sibling rivalry will be the focus. One of the most basic human needs is to fit into a group and when you fuel a sibling rivalry you are creating a ranking system among the group which is counterproductive for performance. If the athlete feels that this imaginary competition is going to affect the “ranking system” within their group, which should be a safe space, they are constantly going to feel like they must prove themselves for the wrong reason which creates more pressure. Don’t get me wrong, competition is a good motivator, but when it effects wants rather than needs. We want to win awards and games, we need to feel valued with in our family. If they are constantly trying to prove their value they are not focused on their performance. To prevent this from happening constantly encourage individuality among your athletes and praise them as individuals not in comparison to each other.

 

Be careful not to create too much unnecessary pressure for your athlete, it can eventually lead to burnout.

Butterflies

 

It was like clockwork; my palms would sweat, my stomach would cramp so bad I felt sick, my heart would race out of control to the point I couldn’t even hear, I couldn’t even think straight. Butterflies. Everything that I had been conditioned to believe was that those feelings meant I was nervous and that I was so unprepared that I never wanted the game to start. I couldn’t understand it; I loved playing basketball probably more than anything else in the world but the way I saw my pregame jitters I could convince myself that I never wanted to touch that court again. That’s where it got confusing to me; my body was telling me I was nervous, so I thought I was nervous, but as soon as I got on the court and played through those feelings I was in the zone. If they weren’t there, I wasn’t mentally there in that game. I began to realize that if I started a game calm I wasn’t ready and my performance suffered every single time. It made no sense; if I have butterflies I’m good to go, if I’m calm I’m not ready? I had to train myself to just accept that those butterflies were what my body needed to play. They were just there and I stopped dedicating my attention to them.

As I got older I learned that those “nervous” feelings my body was going through before each game weren’t telling me that I wasn’t ready, they were telling that I was. Every sensation we have been conditioned to interpret as unprepared can just as easily be interpreted as being prepared. We must condition ourselves to realize that these physiological changes are simply our body getting ready for something that is important to use. Our body knows what matters to us and it has to get ready for game time too. The sweaty palms were my body cooling down, my stomach was cramping because the digestive system was shutting down so that that energy could be used somewhere else in my body and my heart was racing because it was busy pumping blood to my muscles so when game time came I was ready to perform. Just like we warm up and get our minds right my body had its own pregame routine to make sure that I was ready to go physiologically.

The sooner we become mindful of what our bodies are trying to tell us, the easier it is to interpret those physiological sensations in a more effective way. When we realize how we feel when we perform our best, we can use it to our advantage and help boost our confidence. I stopped playing a long time ago but I have the same feeling whenever I get up to teach, or do any performance for that matters. My stomach gets upset, my heart races and my palms sweat. Now however, instead of seeing those butterflies as meaning I’m nervous or I’m not ready, I see them as it meaning that I’m prepared ultimately making me even more confident than I was before. Those butterflies now make me excited because I know that my body is pregaming too. If those butterflies ever become too overwhelming, I know to take control, get them all flying in the same direction and trust that my body has my back. I embrace those butterflies.

Is Hard Work Always Enough?

By: Ryan Sypkens

CEO & Lead instructor at Syp’s Touch Shooting

 

One of the biggest misconceptions in athletics is the notion that if you physically work hard every day then you will reach great success. Hard work is definitely a necessary component to finding success, but it is not the only necessary element. To achieve great success and reach aspirations one must create the habit of working HARD, SMART, and CONSISTENT. Many are achieving one of these elements, and even less than that achieve two; but very few achieve all three on a consistent basis.

Achieving all three elements is very challenging and the average person’s mental framework hinders their ability to accomplish this. The good news is that this mental framework – habitual thinking patterns influencing assumptions that have a direct negative or positive affect on behavior patterns – can be changed with proper training!

In Sacramento California, a local basketball training Academy, Syp’s Touch Shooting, is currently developing a program – The TOUCH System – which provides a curriculum that includes mental training and couples it directly with professional level skill and shooting training. The idea is to rigorously train the physical skills and techniques consistent with becoming a successful basketball player while simultaneously training the mind to reach the capacity for the discipline and accountability necessary to work HARD, SMART, and CONSISTENT.

There will be mental training programs that focus on common struggles such as confidence or free throw shooting, or a program can be created consistent with the individual’s specific situation and struggles.

Applying these mental concepts and techniques to your daily training regimen will help you experience great improvement on the basketball floor, but this is not the only benefit. Regardless of what you decide to pursue in life, these same concepts and techniques can be applied to anything, and participating in this program is great practice for any of your future endeavors in life.

Your focus cannot only include physical skills, but must also include developing the mental aptitude to reach success. With this approach, you are capable of anything!

 

 

 

Effective Praise

 

One of my favorite past times is coaching. I’ve spent years coaching both youth sports and Special Olympics and have been lucky enough to pick up some tips along the way. Effective Praise is one of the best kept, underestimated, secrets to motivate athletes and especially teams to perform well. Praising is something that we naturally do but using the following tips have been proven to make anyone perform better and more consistently. Effective praise builds confidence and creates “winning streaks’ ultimately leading to more success.

 

Tips for Effective Praise:

  1. Be specific – You want to be as detailed as possible when telling people what they did correct. Just saying “good job” is not enough, it does not allow them to know what they did right so that they can do it again. Make sure the athlete knows why you are praising them. Ask yourself what they did right or why did they do it right. A better example of effective praise would be “nice job keeping your elbow in and following through with your shot.
  2. Let it stand alone – It is so easy to clutter praise with critiques. When you have more critiques then you do effective praise, the praise gets lost and means very little (if anything) to the person receiving it.
  3. Be Sensitive – Not everyone likes to be in the spot light and prefer public displays of praise. Knowing your athletes means knowing how they would like to be praised, for some that means pulling them aside to tell them what they did right. Being sensitive to this helps build trust between you and your athlete.
  4. Effort counts – The player or team does not have to execute perfectly to deserve some praise, acknowledge them for their effort. We all know that sometimes we can do everything right and still not get the expected outcome, that effort should not be ignored. Especially when trying to build confidence with a new skill or sport, giving effect praise for effort and improvement can go a long way.
  5. Pay attention to detail – Praise them for things that may not be so obvious. When you can pick up on the little things that proves to the athlete that not only do you care about them but you are paying attention to what they are doing.
  6. Let it vary– You do not need to acknowledge every time that someone does something right. Effective praise should be more often when they are learning a new skill and can be given less often as their talent advances. Also, it’s important to acknowledge good things across different skills and not always focus on one thing.

What to ask when goal-setting

 

January is the time of year where everyone wants to start setting new goals and focusing on what they want to accomplish for the year. I think there are several successful methods that can be implemented to help you achieve your goals. If you do not have a method, we can work on one together that fits you best. For those that already have a goal setting method that they love, here are some questions to consider, not only while planning but also while in the acting phase.

1.What will happen if you don’t achieve your goal? What’s the worst thing that can happen during this goal achievement process?  – It is very important to be optimistic when we are trying to achieve our goals but it’s also important that we are realistic. We set goals for a reason and remembering that is important. We often put off our goals because we forget what’s at stake if we don’t achieve them and putting that into consideration can often give us the motivation we need to stay on task. This is also beneficial because it allows us to start contingency planning for those setbacks and challenges, so if they arrive, you are more likely mentally prepared to overcome them.

2.What strengths do you have that can be used as leverage in achieving your goal? When we attempt at things that we’ve never done before it’s easy to lose confidence in our ability to achieve it. It’s important to look at the strengths we already know that we possess and use those as leverage when we start to doubt ourselves. Strengths can be mental, interpersonal, physical or be values/beliefs that you hold on to tightly. Keeping a list of those strengths can help you be confident in your goal achievement.

3.What support system do you have? There is very little in this world that we can accomplish on our own. Having people that believe in you, will help you, support you and be there to hold you accountable is one of the most underutilized strategies in goal achievement. This must be people that you can trust to be there for you. Having someone to give you other perspectives when it starts to get hard and celebrate when you succeed takes stress off yourself and more likely will keep you working toward your goal.

Trophy Generation

I was around four the first time my basketball team didn’t win a league title (it was also the first league I played in). I remember my coach handing me this pretty green ribbon with gold writing on it. I couldn’t have been more excited; to me it was just as important as the big trophies my brothers always brought home after tournaments. Being so young I couldn’t quite make out what the gold letters meant so I asked my older brother. Without hesitation he explained that it meant that I lost and threw it in the nearest trashcan he could find. A little later my mom explained to me that it was a participation ribbon but brother explained that celebrating failure only sets you up for more failure, he followed up with a “it means nothing if everyone got one”. I was bitter and upset and at four didn’t understand how that mattered, I worked hard all season long.

As I got older the lesson my brother taught me that day was more powerful than I had ever thought. I was never satisfied with good enough and always wanted to achieve higher than the game before, than the practice before. My drive was never about the prize at the end but truly about the process of getting there and competing with myself to always become better. Sure the trophies were nice, but I wouldn’t bat my eye at it for long if I didn’t receive the biggest one. Think back to your participation ribbons, what do they actually mean to you now, what did they actually teach you then? The idea of this trophy generation is far more damaging than we would all like to admit. While it may protect kids’ feelings or give them a momentary feeling of satisfaction in the long run it hurts them more than it will ever help.

One of the biggest reasons I find myself against the idea of the trophy generation is the almost immediate effect it has on the kids who already understand the value of hard work. On the same team you have 2 kids; one works hard, shows up and gives it their all every practice and game and is constantly using their free time to push themselves. The other child barely comes to practice and puts in very little effort, maybe doesn’t even care. The effects of this “trophy generation’ requires that a coach play both athletes similar to the same amount of time because both athlete’s parents paid the same amount of money. For the athlete that isn’t committed, this is teaching them that they are to be rewarded for just showing up and that no matter how much effort that they put in they still get to play. While for the other athlete this ultimately instilling hopelessness. No matter how much effort they put in or talent they have, they are not getting anything different from every other person on the team and thus should not continue to try. It’s teaching them that hard work doesn’t matter and their success and ability to thrive is not in their control. We naturally want to see results from our actions and if we are given everything without taking into account effort and success from hard work, we are not seeing results that are going to continually motivate us to thrive and ultimately allowing extrinsic motivation, we are more likely to have as children, transition to intrinsic motivation that we need as adults.

What happens when those “trophy kids” become “trophy adults” is my next biggest issue. We have all had those jobs that coddle us. You may work relentlessly to learn the material, constantly practicing the content and going out on my own to find work. Unfortunately, we have all had a coworker who does the opposite, doesn’t really care, and that shows when they are interacting with clients or coworkers. The problem with this is that no matter what effort you put in you will receive essentially the same amount of work . The issue isn’t in the way that the company operates because  you have learned that sometimes that is just how life works, the issue however is in the drive that  both team members have. No one is perfect at their job, we all make a lot of mistakes and sometimes mess up the content but because when you have learned that failure is a part of life and can be overcome if you continue to work. Others have never been allowed to fail and coddled so that when they do eventually fail or don’t perform to their fullest potential it holds no weight for them because they have been rewarded anyways. It teaches adults that they really don’t have to work hard to achieve success in some cases. In other cases, it doesn’t teach them how to fail at all. When they are not rewarded for just being and showing up they don’t know how to handle it and ultimately leads to continual dissatisfaction in their job. We all know that person who is constantly looking for something new to do, claiming they are on a hunt for more money or it doesn’t fit them, but in reality they haven’t learned that effort leads to satisfaction and you actually have to continually work, relentlessly for those rewards. I’m not satisfied everyday with my job but I do know that the more I work, the easier it becomes and the more fun I have. If I didn’t work tirelessly to learn the material or didn’t know how to bounce back from failed sessions that would lead to continual stress and anxiety and constantly being unfulfilled in the workplace.

The idea that everyone gets a trophy and that everyone plays no matter how much effort they put into the performance is one of the most detrimental trends happening to young generations today. I encourage you to let children fail, and to not be rewarded for just being there. To show them how to recover from failure. I encourage you to teach them that effort is the only way to truly succeed and that you don’t get a cookie just for showing up in the real world. While I don’t encourage you to do something as drastic as throwing away their ribbons, teach them that participation doesn’t mean that you have won.