Fostering Good Teammate Behavior in Youth

Being part of a team can teach young people responsibility, good communication skills, perseverance, and how to work together for a common goal. Additionally, good teamwork is a highly desired skill in the workplace, so youth who develop it now are more marketable in their adulthood.

Being a good teammate doesn’t always come naturally, especially to youth. Children learn how to behave in a team from observing the adults in their lives – parents, teachers, coaches, and other leaders. We should be demonstrating how to treat others with respect, be accountable to the team, and behave with dignity regardless of the outcomes achieved by the team. If we foster good teammate behavior in our youth, they will learn important skills and adopt qualities that will help them to be successful throughout their lifetime.

Here are ways that adults can foster good teammate behavior in youth:

Role model.

Raising your child to become a good teammate starts before they ever join a team. Observing how their parents act during games or in group activities is a child’s greatest teacher. Your actions will speak louder than any lecture you give them. Here are some specific ideas of how parents can demonstrate good team behavior, whether it’s playing a family game of Monopoly or attending a school’s sports game:

  • Always do your best.
  • If you (or your team) lose, don’t make up excuses. Congratulate the winner.
  • If you (or your team) win, don’t rub it in.
  • If you make a mistake during a game or event, reflect on what you can learn from it and keep trying hard.
  • If someone else on your team makes a mistake, remain encouraging and supportive. Avoid criticizing.
  • Show respect for yourself, your team, and the officials of the game.
  • If you’re on the sidelines of a sporting event, shout words of encouragement, not directions. Let the coach give directions, whether you agree with them or not.
  • Never badmouth your teammates, opponents, coaches, or game officials. If you have a serious concern, discuss it privately with the appropriate person. 
  • Applaud good plays no matter who makes them. 

Enroll your child in a team activity.

Your child must practice being in a team in order to develop good teammate behavior, so get them involved in some sort of activity. Sports is an obvious choice, but there are other teams for unathletic kids such as robotics, e-sports, band, drama, and more. Even taking a group of your child’s friends to an escape room offers them an opportunity to work together towards a goal.

Encourage youth to praise and support their teammates.

Teams work best when every individual member supports the group. It’s easy to cheer on your teammates after they score a goal or solve a difficult problem, but it’s much harder to show support when your teammate misses a shot or seems to fail. We should role model and encourage our youth to avoid criticism and instead offer encouragement to teammates when they make a mistake. For example, if your teen plays a sport, praise your teen for cheering on their teammates as opposed to how many points were scored in the game.

Prioritize the importance of a positive attitude over the outcome of the game.

When you’re talking to your child after a team event or competition, it’s important not to dwell on who won or lost. There is much more to be gained from the team experience than a winning record. Let youth know that they won’t always be able to control the outcome of the game, but they can control their attitude and how they react. If your child learns to bring positive energy to every team experience, they will always win in what matters most.

Help them identify the qualities of a good teammate.

Consider starting some conversations with open-ended questions. You might ask your child, “What’s a time today that you really showed you’re a good teammate?” and “Who is the best teammate on your team and why?” These types of questions encourage youth to consider what qualities are important in team members, why being a good teammate is important, and how they can become one.

Watch sports or team activities together and point out examples of good and bad sportsmanship.

Another way to teach youth to be a good teammate is by watching sports games together. Next time your favorite sports team is playing, tune in with your teen and point out specific examples of good sportsmanship as you see it happening. Maybe players are congratulating their teammate after scoring an important goal, or perhaps one player puts his arm around another who just missed a shot to console them. Youth who see adults behaving in a sportsmanlike way will come to understand that the real winners in sports are those who know how to persevere and to behave with dignity – whether they win or lose.

Final Thoughts…

While it doesn’t always come easy, working in a team offers youth many developmental and social benefits which are well worth the effort. It’s important to foster good teammate behavior in youth so they can be successful throughout life.

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