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Team Trouble: Dealing with a Me-First Mentality

Team Trouble: Dealing with a Me-First Mentality


By Ker’Shyra Myrick

Ideally, being a team player is one of the many skills kids learn when they participate in youth sports. Teams that are working together, supporting each other, cheering for everyone and lending support during rough patches is great to see and a valuable life skill to take into adulthood

But that isn’t always the case.

Below is a question we received from a concerned parent, and we turned to Dr. Jacob Jensen, assistant professor in the department of Kinesiology at California State University, Northridge for his insights. Check out what he had to say below:

My 14-year-old is a really good basketball player, and he’s the most talented on the team he is currently playing on. But the problem is he completely loses it when a teammate commits a turnover or misses a lay-up. It’s embarrassing to see him react like this, as he is certainly not perfect. What can I say to him that will get through to him that this is not what being on a team is all about, because his coach doesn’t seem to be concerned about this behavior because he’s helping the team win?

JENSEN: Seeing as though you are a concerned parent, I would definitely address this issue with your son because you don't want him developing a reputation as a bad team player, especially moving forward in his career. I would ask him how he would feel if his teammates reacted the way that he does every time he misses a lay-up or commits a turnover. I would also help him understand that some of the mistakes that his teammates are making could be a result of them not wanting to let their best player down (your son) and that he may likely be contributing to some of the mistakes his teammates are making. 

If he is not aware of his behavior, there is nothing wrong with snapping a few minutes of video of him acting this way. I would sit down and watch that with him and ask him how he would feel if he was being treated in that way. I would also talk to him about controlling the controllables. Ultimately, he can't control the performance of his teammates, he needs to focus on taking care of his job, and then doing his best to support his teammates. 

A team sport provides that additional challenge of not only letting go of your own mistakes and moving forward, but also those of your teammates. It's a skill that has to be worked on, just like shooting and any other skill. Also, it might be that the coach is hesitant to bring it up with your son because he is the best player, so you could also try to talk to the coach about your concerns. 

Dr. Jacob Jensen Parenting Basketball Teamwork Performance

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