I want to encourage you to become relentlessly intentional about developing your child’s ability to be a teammate. He cannot and will not reach his full potential without your help in this area. You’ve got to help him see what Don Mattingly came to see, that even if he doesn’t get a hit or make a great defensive play, he can still impact the team in an incredible and consistent way. You’ve got to help him become less selfish, less lazy, and less sensitive to negative comments. You’ve got to help him understand that when he gives up himself, he actually becomes more. You’ve got to help him become a captain, a leader, and a better person. This is the mindset of a champion teammate.
Remember, as a sports parent, what you choose to emphasize is what your child will learn to value. If developing your child’s ability to be a teammate is important to you, then how he interacts with those around him must be a part of your perspective. If you see him doing what Don Mattingly did – impacting the team by caring first and foremost about the group’s success instead of his own – then don’t let it go unnoticed. Appreciate it! After all, what you appreciate appreciates. If you see that he hasn’t met the standard you’ve set in this area, then hold him accountable for it. The daily process of teaching, training, and emphasizing what you value will help him learn, grow, and improve for himself.
Most importantly of course, if we want our kids to be their best in this area of life, we’ve got to be our best, too. We can talk to our kids all day long about the importance of being a teammate, but how we model that responsibility in our own lives will speak more loudly than our words ever could. We’ve got to show our children what being a great teammate looks like. Both personally and professionally, in every area of our lives, we’ve got to put others first. We’ve got to become less selfish, less lazy, and less sensitive to negative comments. When we do that – when we give up ourselves for the betterment of our “team,” wherever it is – we become more. We become captains, leaders, and better people. We become champions ourselves, and then we help our children become champions, too.
When Brad Stevens hung that poster over his desk at Butler all those years ago, I know he didn’t do it to make me better, but those words from Don Mattingly did exactly that. They made me better. Today I’m passing them along, hoping they’ll do the same for you. I hope they’ll inspire you to do the work – to hunt for ways to teach and model what it looks like to be a champion teammate for your child. As he develops that understanding, it will separate him from those he’ll be competing with and against forever, in sports and in life. As Don Mattingly said, most people aren’t team players. They don’t realize that life is the only game in town. It’s your job to make sure your child realizes it. If you do, it’ll make all the difference in the world.