Posted by Gus Schumacher on Feb 12th 2023
5 Ways To Be A Good Teammate
No matter what you do in life, you will eventually be a part of a team. In sports, this is especially true, and even in an individual sport like skiing, you will find yourself needing to interact as a *GOOD* teammate. Even though your results aren’t totally dependent on the chemistry of the team around you, they are largely impacted by the dynamic of everyone working together. I’ve noticed this through my years as a skier. From Arctic Winter Games (pre Junior Nationals) to the Olympics and World Cup, I’ve been on teams, and been lucky to consistently have really fun and supportive teammates. (The ski community is a good one!) BUT; these teams don’t always just happen. We often have to work hard to make the individual, competitive personalities pull together.These are a few of my takeaways from 10+ years of being on teams!
1. Recognize that it’s not always easy
This is the acceptance part of this! I’ve found that when I recognize that I’m around competitive people who all want to beat each other, I have an easier time being patient and understanding of difficult interactions. Even on super tight teams that I’ve been on, we all want to beat each other, because the main result on most days is individual.
Even better than individually accepting this is voicing it as a group. Recently we had a team meeting on the World Cup where we talked about the fact that we were competing for limited Tour de Ski spots, and afterwards there was a noticeable decrease in tension. We were able to talk about that it sucked that we had to beat each other to reach our goals, but that we still had to be supportive of the team as a whole.
2. Have your teammates backs
This is a Matt Whitcomb favorite. The idea is that we can be fierce competitors in the actual race, but when it comes down to it, we act in a way that has our teammates best interests at heart. A lot of this time this just looks like saying “good luck” and “good job” before and after a race. Just those words that show support go a long way. Going beyond that, I like to make sure I spend some time alone with most or all of my teammates. It’s nice to have that individual relationship to strengthen the group one. Generally the idea is to give each other small acts of support rather than small acts of selfishness. The difference really adds up in the long run.
3. Make sure to keep yourself happy.
One trap that often gets overlooked when emphasizinga good team atmosphere is that a person stops acting in a way that keeps them happy. At the end of the day, we’re all still individuals and need to acknowledge that. For example, I’ll sometimes sit out of team activities because I need some alone time, and that’s totally fine. My teammates also know that’s important, so no one takes it too seriously. You just need to make sure to show up when you feel good about it.
4. Fill your own role
This is similar to the last one, and is related to the fact that we’re all different. Some people like to cheer loud, and be forceful about supporting their teammates, but other people like to keep it quieter and less public. It helps to figure out what type of support you like to give and mostly do that. For myself, I really prefer the individual-level talks and support, but other people really like to bring a bigger group into it. All of that is fine, and even great when we have different personalities to take on different roles in the team. Everyone is vital in the way that no one else can be!
5. Make sure to know everyone!
This one may seem silly, but especially as you get on a bigger team, or if you’re new to a team, you may notice there are some people you actually don’t really know one-on-one. I find this can make it really hard in small-group situations, so I think it’s worth it to make sure you have a solid connection to everyone. It doesn’t take much, just a couple conversations to get to know each other, and it goes a long way.
Doing these things, even in the smallest, easiest actions, can mean so much to the functioning of a team! I heard from Matt W. that having a good team can be the difference between a slight wind at your face and a slight one at your back. You can give a little and get a lot, that’s what’s so great!