Lauren Tamayo is an Olympian, a World Record holder in the Team Pursuit, and a National Crit Champion, but those aren’t even the most impressive things about her. OK – they’re pretty impressive, but to me, one of the most impressive things about Lauren is what an incredible teammate she was. She is retired now, but in this video, Lauren’s Twenty12 cycling teammates talked about how hard she is willing to work and that in return, she expects her teammates to work hard as well. The other amazing part of the video is Lauren’s honesty during a post-race debrief. She dishes up some hard truths and shares how she felt about her team’s performance, and her teammates are better because of it. (She also has a super cool nickname, but you’ll have to watch this video to find out what it is.)
It can be challenging at times to balance your individual goals as an athlete with the goals of your team. Oftentimes you find yourself sacrificing one for the other. It’s a beautiful and challenging thing; to be a part of the team. The self-sacrifices you make is an aspect of what makes it so beautiful and challenging.
Aristotle was quoted as saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. I call this Disneyland Effect. When you go to Disneyland, the “magic” is having all of it together in that one place. It’s the individual parts, all coming together, that make the magic.
In terms of sports, the question to ask is:
Are you a team?
Or are you a group?
What you can become, when you actually integrate and come together, is so much more than what you are alone. Are you actually a team, a “sum”, or are you just a bunch of individuals that happen to be on the same field, court, or peloton? But … in order to reach this beauty, you have to buy into this concept. That the team is bigger than you AND that you are an important part of that team. Here are five ways to strengthen your team by working on being an exceptional teammate:
You need to build trust with each other. This is done with your words and your actions. With team sports, trust and respect are linked closely together. It’s more difficult and less satisfying to work for someone that you don’t respect and you don’t trust. If you want to build trust on your team, start by being trustworthy. When your teammates don’t slack off and they do what they say they are going to do, you know you can trust them so make sure you are doing the same.
Fight for each other’s success.
It’s easier to fight for your teammates success when you know your teammates value and appreciate your role on the team. One of the greatest parts of the video is hearing how Lauren’s teammates appreciate and value her role on the team and understand her role in their success. If you want to make sure that your role is appreciated and valued then you need to make sure that you are appreciating and valuing the roles of your teammates. When you can get to that place where you truly believe that your teammate’s win is your win, then you have a team.
You are not doing your teammates any favors by not calling them out and not being honest. It can be difficult to do, but if you are sincere in your dealings with people, then they will listen when you have something to say. It takes courage to be the person that calls out your teammates or to be the one that says something that goes against the grain. If you show your teammates respect and they know that you have their best interest in mind, then they will listen to what you have to say. They may not enjoy the conversation, but it will sink in. It might be uncomfortable for everyone in the short run, but in the long run it can make you a better team.
Take ownership and take feedback.
A team sport IS also an individual sport. If you want someone to work on their own challenges, you have to be willing to work on yours too. You need to own your strengths and own your weaknesses and be willing to let your strengths shine when they are needed and develop your weaknesses so eventually they become strengths (or at least avoid being liabilities!). Embrace a growth-mindset and help your teammates embrace that too.
Your teammates are people too.
Don’t forget that your teammates exist outside of your team. (Shockingly – your coaches do too!) Athletes need to know that they are valued outside of their sport too. You don’t have to be best friends with all of your teammates, but it doesn’t hurt to ask them about their life outside of sport every once in a while. If it seems like your teammate isn’t giving their best on a given day, it’s possible that it had nothing to do with their motivation, confidence, or the team – but possibly something else altogether.
My point is, if you want to be on a team surrounded by good teammates, make sure you are a good teammate too. It’s starts with YOU. If you don’t want to be a team player, don’t be on a team sport. But if you DO want to be a team player, it can be one of the most beautiful and powerful things you will ever be a part of. They say there is no “I” in team, but I don’t think that’s true. There are LOTS of “I’s” on a team and you are one of them. There is a balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your team and you need to be able to do both.