It is not uncommon in team sports to repeatedly hear the quote “There is no I in Team” and, analytically, this is both literally and figuratively true. However, I believe it is important to compare and reason that famous statement with the phrase “you can only control the controllables” and, consequently, somewhat adopt that mentality to apply the “me in team” principle that I will explain below.
From personal experience, there is no better feeling than that of success in a team sport; the bond of togetherness, the enjoyment of camaraderie and the longevity of shared memories. Being involved in such a positive moment with your teammates – who more often than not also happen to be some of your closest friends – is an emotion that reigns supreme and it is simply very special to see that you have achieved your goal, together.
This said, what is the purpose of the “me in team” principle? Well, as mentioned despite the idea of team sports you are ultimately only in control of what you personally do and so you should, to some extent, focus solely on those controllable factors – ie. The “me”. As I will go on to explain, this self-focus can help individual preparation, motivation, frustration and resultantly performance. However, a key rule is that this principle should be used in connection with and as additional support to your primary ambition of benefitting your team.
When defined, a team is a said to be collective group of individuals who prepare, challenge and apply themselves with the dedicated ambition of bettering their team. However within such a group every player has their own personal preferences, mentalities and actions regarding all aspects of sporting performance. For example, each player will have their own, individual pre-match routine; procedures they follow, superstitions they trust and preferred methods for motivation. If every player prepared in a generalised team way then the response wouldn’t be the same, it simply wouldn’t work for some players. This is a case where the “me” in team is vital; players need a sense of self-focus and they need to take individually driven actions.
A sense of individual focus is also required during game situations as, when things don’t go to plan, frustration can easily spread throughout a team. So, it is in those challenging times that your own attitude needs to be resilient and enable you to continue to focus on your own performance. Getting annoyed will only distract you from doing your job for the team and any lapse in concentration will result in a decrease in your level of performance. Thus, each individual needs to psychologically train him or herself to concentrate on only what they can impact – “control their controllables”.
Additionally, what if you are not making the starting team for your games? Do you sit back and happily applaud your teammates from the bench. No. You work hard in training and you compete – in the right manner – to try and earn your right to start the game. Without appropriate levels of competition in training there will be no progression in the squad, no drive and no competitiveness on match days. This stems from the individuals challenging themselves to be the best within their team, for them to keep developing and improving as a player. Healthy competition between motivated individuals is vital for team success.
Conclusively, the team mentality is undoubtedly crucial but it is also essential that individuals within a team focus on themselves. Athletes need to ensure that they are in control of their performance and that they can make the most positive, effective and advantageous contribution to their team. This “me” attitude should not outweigh the team mentality but it should be a continual desire used to promote team progression and success.
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About Alexa Passingham
Student Athlete at East Tennessee State University - Exercise Science Major & Women's Soccer Player. Intrigued by Sports Psychology.