I took in a local Minor League baseball game Sunday—a real barnburner between the Dayton Dragons and the Lake County Captains. With bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th and only one out, the Dragons trailed 2-1. With a full count, the batter (we’ll call him player A) fouled off a number of pitches to stay alive. Finally, the pitcher caught him looking. Two outs.
In obvious frustration, he lifted the bat above his head and swung it hard to the ground, breaking it apart. The next batter (player B) took a few pitches and then lined one to right field, winning the game! The dugout quickly cleared as his teammates rallied around him at second base. All except player A. Thankfully, he eventually joined the team on the field, but not initially.
He didn’t strike me (pun intended) as a great teammate. I should know. I wasn’t one either during my playing days. But over many ensuing years of watching sports and now helping sports teams develop stronger trust, I’ve noticed three qualities that the very best teammates share:
Self-control. The heat of the moment can easily get the best of us. But athletes who learn how to manage their emotions during competition are better able to keep their head in the game, leading to more consistent performance. As a result, they earn the respect of teammates and opponents alike.
Team first. The very best teammates value team achievement more than individual achievement. Winning the game is more important than having the best stat line or hitting the game-winner. These players live by the motto: it’s not about me.
Celebrate others. We love a teammate who readily celebrates the success of others, even and especially when it exceeds his own success. The ability to put ego aside and truly rejoice with those who rejoice reflects humility and selflessness.
Being a lousy teammate is one of the things I regret most about my athletic career. I was all about me and my stats (and honestly, I wasn’t good enough to be!).
So when I watch sports now, I cheer hardest for the athletes who show self-control, put the team first and celebrate the success of other players, because they make the very best teammates.