By Bo Hanson – 4x Olympian, Coaching Consultant & Director of Athlete Assessments

When you look at the athletes in your squad or team, what do you see? Do you just see the number on their back? Do you see their technical ability, and how this translates into their performance? Is there anything an athlete can contribute beyond their technical contribution? Have you ever thought about the impact certain players have on the rest of their team, especially when they are not there?

This article is in response to a recent discussion with a coach. This discussion highlighted that in some instances, coaches can view their players only from the perspective of their technical expertise, and the value this contributes. For example, how does one linebacker influence your team, in comparison to another whose technical role is identical? Does one talk and encourage others more? Does one listen and understand the set plays better? In reality, when we look at athletes in any sport, we must challenge ourselves to view an athlete’s total contribution and therefore, establish roles for our athletes that suit the type of contribution they are capable of making. All for the benefit of the team.

When an athlete makes a more holistic contribution they become a more valuable member of the team. These are some factors which I have noticed that can add value to an athlete’s technical role:

Listening skills:

  • How well does an athlete take on and retain information such as set plays, technical data, feedback about their performance, or information about the opposition?
  • Does an athlete truly tune in totally when they need to? Athletes who can listen well generally create less stress for those around them including coaches and fellow athletes. This is most evident when athletes act on their understanding of instructions or requirements by fulfilling their role in the team or game.
  • This provides those around them with a sense of security in knowing the athlete understands and can perform their role.

Communication skills:

  • Do they speak their mind in an appropriate way? Are they assertive in expressing their opinion on how to improve the team’s performance? Does the athlete consider the impact of their feedback on others?
  • Do they communicate to build trust and respect with their team members?
  • These are often an extension of an athlete’s listening skills, and demonstrate how well an athlete can communicate with their coach and team members.
  • All these factors can make or break a team. From my experience, athletes who can communicate well on the field quickly build a reputation of being the type of athlete team members want on their side.

Team skills:

  • What is the athlete’s approach to the team? Do they position themselves to be the star, or do they work hard to be the best player for the team?
  • Are they concerned about how to add value to other team members, or are they selfish in their participation?
  • Are they likely to behave selflessly, and act to help the team win, even if that means putting their individual statistics to the side?

Self-management skills:

  • Does the athlete organize themselves to be at their best when they need to be?
  • Are they the type of athlete who forgets their gear or neglects their preparation?
  • Do they compromise the team’s goals by their actions away from training? Do they give away penalties on the field?
  • Do they bring the team into disrepute by their off-field behavior?

Discipline:

  • Is the athlete totally reliable in carrying out coach instructions?
  • Are they able to make tough choices which see the team’s goals come first?
  • Do they do what they are told on and off the field or do they change the rules to suit themselves?

The list of non-technical skills, qualities or abilities that athletes can contribute to the overall team is extensive (and the above is really just an overview – see the video on the GRIP Model later in this article). Not every player or athlete brings the same characteristics to the team and never do we want them to. Certainly some of the qualities mentioned here are desirable in most athletes, as they are all qualities which ultimately add value to the team or overall program. Coaches who take notice of the non-technical athlete qualities often take this knowledge into consideration with their selection choices. As a result, the team chemistry is much more effective, and this assists a team in achieving their overall goals.

You might be interested to read more about an athlete’s role beyond their playing position. We cover this when talking about the role of athletes within the “GRIP Model” we use in preseason preparation. (See our article on Pre-Season Preparation using the GRIP Model.)

In that article, it is the ‘R’ in GRIP that stands for Roles in the team.

We discuss that roles in a team encompass more than simply the position on the field or court an athlete plays, in the same way as we have above. Although this is part of it, the main aspect to roles is having each athlete understand what their role is beyond their playing role. What this means is every team member is expected to make a contribution off the field or court.

We also have an online video available for you to watch on the GRIP Model that you can access by contacting us. We would be happy to share this with you on your request.

At Athlete Assessments, we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and to help you be your best. If there is anything we can assist you with (or if you’d like to watch the GRIP video), please contact us.

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