[Mother of Invention] “Team Players” Aren’t Born That Way

The writer's daughter Amalia.

The writer’s daughter Amalia.

At some point as they enter adulthood, our kids will probably field the standard Human Resources question, “Are you a team player?”

What I’ve found in my career is that regardless of the team—not just traditional sports but chess teams, debate squads, and glee clubs—true team players have played competitively at some point, somewhere.

Recently, my daughter’s soccer team of 8-year-old girls won their first tournament. The girls were ecstatic, as were the parents and coaches who spent many a weekend ferrying them all over So-Cal.

We spent the previous season getting run over by teams from the Inland Empire, but the Hollywood FC girls’ team had now officially “arrived.”

While no one would deny it’s fun to win, we all know it’s not the real prize in youth sports. The endgame is something much bigger.

Watching kids blossom through sports is not easy. It’s fraught with competition, drama, injuries, and crying.

When I’m on the sidelines in 109-degree San Bernardino heat, I try to remind myself of the payoffs in terms of teamwork, camaraderie, and self-confidence.

There may be future academic benefits as well.  According to Livestrong.com, playing on a high school sports team increases a young woman’s chances of graduating from college by 41 percent.

And it goes further. As young athletes continue on past school, they carry added benefits into the working world. An impressive number of CEOs from the likes of Whole Foods, IBM, Bank of America, and GM all played college sports.

Teams are huge confidence-boosters. As a devout ballplayer and youth coach, my husband revels in “the moment they get it”—when a kid makes his first basket, gets his first base-hit, or scores her first goal.

I’ve seen the look on their faces in that moment, too, and it’s that noticeable, like watching a flower bud unfold before your eyes.

My daughter’s team has given her a unique kind of confidence. It has also put her in the company of other young girls who, together, create a fierce dynamic of competitive instinct, emotional strength, physical toughness, speed, and smarts.

They get knocked down, and get right back up. Whether they win or lose, they come off the field patting each other on the back.

I asked one of the soccer dads, Bobby Salomon, for his take on youth sports. He grew up in Montreal playing hockey, soccer, and baseball and had aspirations of playing hockey professionally.

Bobby is one of the most nurturing sports dads I’ve met and he helped put it all in perspective.

“Talent is just one of the factors that go into achieving success at the highest levels,” he said. “Heart and passion win the big games.”

He then summed it all up.

“If you love yourself, you may lose, but you can never fail.”

For all the sports parents who spend their weekends sweating on the sidelines, and for the kids who come back bruised and battle-scarred, that is the true endgame.

 

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