What kind of person are you?
This is a question I’ve been rolling around in my head for awhile, specifically about team dynamics and the type of player I want to be.
It’s a question I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think about. I’ve been playing competitive Ultimate for about 6 years and with a different group of players almost every year. I’ve been the novice on the team, the captain and founder of a team, the most experienced player on teams I don’t captain, and more.
Team dynamics are always an aspect of Ultimate I’ve watched, but as I’ve progressed as a player, so has my perception of team dynamics and what they mean.
I’ve played a number of tournaments with a number of teams where one bad game (or even a bad run of points) kills the rest of the tournament. All it takes are a few bad decisions on the field and a few bad attitudes off the field. By the end of one game players are so frustrated with each other and shaken by the experience that the team doesn’t recover from the negative vibe in time to save the tournament.
And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be the majority of players upset (to start with). One or two negative attitudes will affect everyone. A few bad points, that could have been turned around, suddenly becomes the entire team down on ourselves and each other. Once the negativity starts, it’s almost impossible to stop it from spreading.
As a player it’s easy to sit on the bench and buy into the negativity. Or just watch it spread and blame the bad team attitude on someone else. Like the initial set of frustrated teammates: Why are they busy making everyone else feel bad? They screwed up just as much as everyone else!
Or on the coach/captain: Shouldn’t they be a calming influence on their players?
For a long time, that’s exactly how I reacted. Either by buying into the frustration, or rolling my eyes and ignoring it. Both attitudes are completely wrong. They represent part of the problem.
Every player on a team needs to take responsibility for the entire team and the atmosphere surrounding them. The team isn’t pumped up? Why aren’t I pumping them up?
People are shaken and frustrated? Help shake them out of it.
Jump up and down, scream a cheer from the sidelines, be the first person to stop the throw off the pull, or the last in the stack and the first cut. Layout.
Encourage your teammates to run faster. Sprint on to the field shouting when they score. Tell them we’ll get it back when the disc turns over.
Make a decision to be a force of positivity around you, and take control of your environment.
This is one of my goals for the this year. Not just on the Ultimate field, but also in the office and in my private life. Without undermining the importance of recognizing mistakes and fixing them, and without trivializing how people feel when they mess up, my goal is to keep a positive attitude around myself and project it as much as possible to the people around me.
*Note: Post originally written and posted 8/2/11. It was taken down with the rest of my posts when I re-launched a few weeks ago. I decided to re-post after referencing it in A Tournament to Start 2012 – Janus.