Who’s a Good Teammate?

One of the benefits of being involved with roller derby (or any team sport) is the opportunity it offers to share special experiences like none other and build lasting friendships. Long after our rolling days are over, the memories that stand out most will be the ones involving our teammates.

You may have heard the motto: TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More, which is a great mantra for keeping a group unified, but it is kind of ambiguous when it comes to specifying behaviors that define a good teammate. Like “yeah, I want my team to achieve more, but it’s kinda hard to want to be ‘together’ with some of these asshats,” so then what?

Well looky here, I’ve done some digging and I’ve found an acronym that highlights the behaviors each of us must exemplify in order to be a C.R.E.D.I.T. to this league!

 C is not for cookie this time, but it is for Cooperative

Becoming a good teammate starts with putting the needs of the team ahead of selfish inclinations.

Examples of uncooperative behavior include arguing on the track or bench, not trusting teammates to play their designated position, not participating in a chosen strategy because you wanted to do something different, etc.

Did you know that those sayings like ‘there is no I in team’ and ‘play for the name on the front of your jersey instead of the one on the back’ are supposed to reinforce the importance of being an unselfish player? Well that makes sense now that I think about it!

So where do you start with that? A good place to start is to learn about empathy. After viewing this short video, https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw, take a minute or so to think about how you can build stronger relationships with your teammates by learning to empathize (because they are humans with problems and life shit too – just like me and you).

Connecting with and showing sensitivity to others is key to being a cooperative teammate!

R stands for Respectful

Good teammates are respectful of others – teammates, coaches, officials, fans, and opponents.

University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck has a ‘row the boat’ analogy he uses to teach his players about respect and how to be good teammates. There are three parts to rowing a boat – the oar, the boat, and a compass.

–The oar is the energy you bring to your life and the team.

–The boat is the sacrifices you are willing to make for the team.

–The compass gives direction to your energy and sacrifices; you must be willing to travel in the same direction as the team.

He ties his message together by reminding the players that to successfully ‘row the boat’ as a team they must create a respectful familial environment.

When skaters show respect for one another it creates what has been referred to as ‘psychological safety’, which frees us all up to be ourselves and speak our true feelings without fear of being embarrassed or yelled at.

 E = Enthusiastic

Good teammates are sources of positive energy for others. Skaters should ask themselves daily, Is the team environment better right now because I’m here?

When skaters bring positive energy, they are contributing to a better, more fun experience for everyone on the team.

The Positive Coaching Alliance (yes that does actually exist) uses the analogy of ‘filling an emotional tank’ which is my favorite, so I’ll share it: We all do better when our emotional tanks are full. Similar to the gas tank in your car, when it’s empty you aren’t going to get very far, but if it is full, then you can go a loooong way. When your teammates’ emotional tanks are full, they are more open to improvement, more optimistic, deal better with adversity, have more energy, and respond better to challenge. Imagine everything we could accomplish if we all routinely filled each other’s tanks? Research has shown that optimum performance comes from a ratio of about five tank-fillers for each constructive criticism. They call it the *Magic Ratio* (5:1) because athletes improve so much it seems like magic. Here are some tank-filling tools with examples to get the idea:

Tank-Filler Examples
Names People like to hear their own name, so use your teammates’ names often. “Hey Trauma, how’s your day been?”
Comings & Goings Greet teammates and say goodbye after practices and games. “Hi Skint, how’s it going?” “See ya later Nita!”
Praise Praise works best when it is truthful and specific: “Irma, that apex jump was amazing!”
Express appreciation Simply saying thanks is a great one. “Luna, thanks for showing me how you do that move.”
Offering to help “Need any help getting things set up for the event this weekend, Boom?”
Glue actions Be someone who notices and comments on the unsung things that hold a team together. “Awesome job holding that inside line Snoochie, we couldn’t have held that jammer back long enough to get lead if you hadn’t!”
Check-ins Look out for teammates who seem down and check in with them: “How you doing, Waffle? Everything ok?”
Watching out for new skaters If you are a veteran skater or a higher skilled skater, being friendly to newer or less skilled skaters can make them more confident, more likely to work hard, and a bigger contributor to the team’s success.
Asking and listening Being asked for your ideas and being listened to are big tank fillers: “I’m having trouble with my transitions. You got any tips, Wreckin’?”
Help Manage Mistakes A skater’s tank can be lowest after a mistake: “Don’t worry Jungle, you’ll get it next time!”
Nonverbal actions Tank filling doesn’t have to be talk. Smiling, clapping, fist bumps, head nods, thumbs up, and eye contact with a smile are all tank fillers.

D is all about being Disciplined

The most valued teammates are the ones who model self-discipline on a daily basis, not only by completing training and team responsibilities but also by showing initiative to do more.

UCLA coaching legend John Wooden said “Discipline yourself so others won’t need to.”

Examples of being self-disciplined include: cross-training, working on reducing your penalties, building mental strength, and NOT gossiping or spreading rumors or negative opinions about others.

I is for Invested

We prove we are fully invested in this league when we support each other.

All teams experience dysfunction, and these are the moments that test each skater’s commitment to the league and to each other. When pressure and disappointment grow due to losses or mistakes, are you re-grouping and focusing on solutions that are best for the league or are you focusing on self-preservation and blaming others?

A strong example of an athlete demonstrating what it means to be fully invested in their team is this post-game speech by then college football player Tim Tebow back in 2008: https://youtu.be/zLc25o8V5aE (following a heart-breaking loss, he gave a brief press conference in which he apologizes to the fans and his teammates and then promises that he will work harder than any other player in the nation to ensure the team will be successful. PS, the team didn’t lose another game that season and later that year won the national championship). The speech is now immortalized on a plaque posted outside the University of Florida football facility as a reminder for all players to be a fully invested teammate.

T = Trustworthy

The most successful teams operate with high levels of trust.

Trustworthy can be described as embracing your role on the team, doing what you say you will do, and speaking truthfully to faces – NOT behind backs.

Trustworthy people leave no doubt or questions about their behavior or intentions, and don’t throw blame on others for their own misfortune. Here is another fun video that I want to squeeze in right here: https://youtu.be/RZWf2_2L2v8

Bottom line: All of us are capable of being great (or even greater!) teammates. By consistently promoting and reinforcing these behaviors that characterize a good teammate, we can all be a C.R.E.D.I.T. to our league, get it? 😀

Jungle & Anita Str8jacket, photo credit: Derby Pics by Phil


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