January 5, 2021
Being a great teammate goes beyond just helping others train and perform better. When you make the decision to make a positive impact on the training group you create an environment where everyone succeeds, and like a rising tide, everyone’s fortunes—yours included—improve.
Here are a few ways that you can help foster that training environment where not only your teammates are more likely to excel, but you are as well:
REMEMBER THE MISSION.
What are the goals for the team for the season? For the next meet? Or on a more day-to-day basis, what are the attendance targets for the squad?
Individual goals are important, but when the team is united behind a common cause there is an undeniable sense of cohesion and forward movement. The wake of one swimmer chasing excellence is strong, the wake of a pack of swimmers chasing a common goal is unstoppable.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
By far the strongest leaders in a group are the ones who lead by example, who dive head-long into those tough sets, who volunteer to take down the flags after practice, who wait in the water after a long set and cheer on every teammate until they are done.
Saying you do it better and that you expect others to hold themselves to high standards is one thing, but when you take it upon yourself to set the standard than words become unnecessary and very often superfluous in comparison.
REMEMBER THAT YOUR POSITIVITY IS INFECTIOUS.
We like to think of ourselves as impervious to the influence of others. That someone else’s bad day won’t rub on us. That the swimmer in our lane complaining won’t bring us down (although for some people—myself included—hearing teammates complain and struggle during a tough set usually motivated me to push harder). Or that the social circle we carry outside the pool doesn’t influence us.
In reality, emotional states—both good and bad can be passed on to us via something that is called “emotional contagion.” While many of us know this from anecdotal experiences within our group of friends, research has shown that emotional states can even be transferred across social media. When Facebook users were shown only positive stories, their own posts were more frequently positive. The opposite was true when users were shown mostly negative stories.
While you won’t always be able to crowd out Connie Complainer, you can help to make a more positive training environment by seeking and accentuating the positive in challenging practice situations.
MARK THE TRIUMPHS—EVEN THE SMALL ONES.
To maintain a lasting sense of motivation and belief in the cause requires a series of consistent reminders that progress is being made and that it is positive progress. In other words, recognizing and celebrating the little wins.
Observing the little victories—and not merely brushing them aside because they aren’t ground-shaking or record-breaking—provides a continuous drip of enthusiasm towards the task at hand.