Why don’t I feel important? – A 3 stage guide to feeling valuable in team sports.

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Being on a sports team there are many things that can motivate you; other players, coaches, parents and awards are just a few examples. Unfortunately, there are often factors that actually affect your motivation in a negative way, one of these is a lack of self-appreciation. Just because a team is winning every match it does not mean that all players feel they are important. As a personal example, I have recently finished the indoor hockey season for my under 16 girls team, we won 11/12 games and drew 1/12. This would make a lot of people assume that everyone on the team is happy and feels like they are important. Unfortunately, this often isn’t true and my team was no exception.

Two weeks before the end of the indoor season player from my team came to me and wanted to discuss the 2nd half of the season, she mentioned a few things that were on her mind but most importantly she doesn’t feel as valuable as the other players in her team. Instead of telling her everyone has their own role in the ‘bigger picture’ I spent a long time discussing what she thinks of her own job in the team and others around her. It was actually surprised with one thing she said in particular. Translated simply as:

“I work my hardest every week but I don’t actually know what you need, (the coach) or the team needs from me to be the most valuable I can be.”

Of course, we play at a high enough level where the tactics and teamwork come naturally for the players in the team but this certain player doesn’t feel like has a specific role in the team which means she has nothing as a benchmark for her progress or performance during training and matches. After spending a lot of time thinking about this I have put together three simple steps for players to follow when they do not feel valuable enough for their team.

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Step one: Discovering your role:

This seems quite obvious but unfortunately, many players have no idea what their specific role in their team is. I asked my girls to send me a message of what they think their role in the team is and ironically every single one mentioned that they need to give 100% for the team. This is exactly the same as what the player who came and spoke to me mentioned. A few girls mentioned things regarding helping others “… If someone in the team is angry I need to make sure they are calm so they can play their best”. Another mentioned “… I need to be responsible for the great role of the team, by always being dependable.” Although these responses are great and it is very clear what their specific role in the team some players such as the example earlier do not know what their role is. This was confirmed by another player saying exactly (translated):

“I do not know exactly [what my role is], but I know that I always have to work 100%”

So if it so important that players know their specific role in the team, how does one go about finding out what it is? Talking! The first thing someone should do if they do not know what their role is, speak to their coach. I can not guarantee that every coach will be able to give a perfect answer straight away but asking the question will certainly get them thinking. The first step is the easiest as all you need to do is find out what your role is, in the eyes of the coach.

Step Two: Accepting your role:

This step has potential to be very easy but also very difficult. Looking at the easier side first, what happens if you agree with your coach in regards to what they think your job is. For example, if they tell you that they want to you work as hard as you can on motivating others around you and you agree that this is the best role for you, there is almost zero chance that you will find it hard to accept your role and can move swiftly onwards to step three.

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For those who find it hard to accept their role will not be able to move on and the discussion with their coach should go further. More often than not if a coach is able to explain their motivations as to why they see your role in the team as they do it is easy to find a middle ground where both sides are happy. If the role the coach has given you is very different from your expectations a decision needs to be made. As this blog post is about achieving a sense of self-worth in regards to the team as a whole, in order to progress the player will need to trust the coach and accept the role they have been given.

Step Three: Committing to your role:

Regardless of how hard or easy step 2 was the last step is the one that takes the most time. In essence, there isn’t actually a set amount of time this will take as it is an ongoing process. Looking at the title of this blog post:

“A 3 stage guide to feeling valuable in team sports.”

It is important a player is able to turn the act of committing to their role into a source of motivation, (by feeling that they are valuable to their team). The best way that a player can do this is to focus on what the job is and trying their hardest to fulfil it whenever they are at training or matches. Going back to an example a player of mine gave where they feel their role in the team is to calm others in their team, they should be able to finish a match and analyse their performance in regards to how well they did their specific role. By realising that they did their job to the best of their ability they will become very motivated and not only motivated but they will feel that they are valuable and that in its self is extremely important for team sports athletes.

Players: If you do not feel as valuable as others on your team try to take these three steps and hopefully your sense of self-worth will come back. Communication with the coach is Key!

Coaches: It would be a good idea to ask your teams to see if they know what their role in the team is, and further find out if they accept it and are committed to carrying it out for the good of the team!

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