Who makes the best team players?

SynchroMany of the traits which make the best team players are developed on the football, hockey and rugby pitches, on the netball courts, in the swimming pools and even the ice rinks during our childhood and teenage years.

But as adults it is all too easy to forget the lessons we learned in our younger years. Those team playing skills weren’t fine tuned during the latest battle in the boardroom or as we strived to achieve sales targets but in the playground and in our sports teams.

Whilst returning to the football pitch or athletics stadium may fill many of us with horror, there’s much we can relearn from watching our children’s sports teams.

Both my daughters skate for a synchro team. It requires precision and co-ordination and above all, team work. Unlike most other sports, the ice skating synchro teams are made up of a variety of ages; one team is aged 11-16 and the other 14-18-years and consists of both males and females. With such variety, the team building characteristics have to be applied to an even higher degree. The team has to perform as one without any one skater stealing the limelight. It has to be a supportive yet competitive environment where each skater continually ups their game in order for the team to continually improve its performance.

For Dummies, the best selling reference books, identifies 10 traits which make an effective team player:-
1) Reliability
2) Communicates constructively
3) Listens and acts
4) Active participant
5) Shares
6) Cooperates and helps
7) Flexibility
8) Commitment
9) Problem-solver
10) Respects and supports others

To be a successful team and not necessarily one which always wins but always performs to the best of its collective ability, these characteristics need to be in play at all times. Look out for them the next time you watch your kids play, perform or compete, chances are they will be more apparent than in the workplace.

There is no option to stay on the sidelines when you are in the synchro team – work together or fall over. Cooperation, therefore, becomes second nature.

Hardly surprising then that many workplace coaches and trainers advocate the presence of ‘athletes’ in the workplace. Business information website Forbes contributor and US entrepreneur David K. Williams identifies several traits athletes portray as being essential to business success. It includes relentless pursuit of a goal and never giving up, even in the face of failure; continual development of new skills; ability to see the bigger picture beyond their individual needs or goals; the balance of a healthy body and a healthy mind; and the ability to leverage the strengths of team members for the benefit of the whole.

Even more encouraging is recent research which reveals youngsters who participate in team sports are more likely to achieve better results at school proving to be more beneficial than pursuits such as drama or debating. The research from the University of South Carolina and Pennsylvania State University followed 9,700 students aged 14-18 taking part in a range of extracurricular activities including academic, vocational, performing arts and team sport pursuits. The most significant finding was the positive effect of playing in a competitive team sport on academic achievement whereby youngsters who did so obtained higher grades irrespective of race, sex, previous academic achievement and background.

Our synchro teams are practising hard in the run-up to the British and Scottish competitions in 2014. I have no idea how they will fare but one thing’s for certain; they are setting themselves with all the characteristics they will need to succeed in the classroom and eventually in the world of work. The teams have been fraught with some difficulties in 2013, not of their own making, but they have endured, united and overcome. Whatever the outcome, I am immensely proud and humbled to have been a part of their journey.

Like ours, your own budding sportsmen and women may not be heading for the next Olympics but they could well be the source of some much needed inspiration which you can take back to the workplace.


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