I love teamwork. I've worked in multidisciplinary settings my entire career and couldn't imagine working any other way. Just this week I've worked directly with psychologists, counselors, social workers, coaches, primary care physicians, team physicians, and athletic trainers; it just so happens that this week I didn't talk to any dietitians or physical therapists, but those are part of my typical week, too.
What I love most about professional teamwork is the fact that every of us has a different piece of the puzzle or a different perspective on working with athletes. We all have different training, personalities, and practice styles and see the athletes in different settings (e.g., the office, practice, traveling on the road).
All of us working together and communicating with each other (with athlete permission, of course) means we can help athletes perform to the best of their abilities. All of our pieces work together and strengthen each other. We can support the work of others in our own work with athletes. Sometimes we help athletes problem-solve an issue they are having with another person and help them identify the best way to resolve it with them. Or maybe athletes have a question for another team member but can't figure out how to say it best. There are no egos involved in this process because egos mean we aren't helping student athletes to the level they deserve. We all know we are working toward the same goal: helping the student athletes.
The reality is this work parallels your own work and relationships with your teammates. As a team, you're working toward a common goal. A goal that is bigger than each of you as individuals, yet still important to all of you individually. It's important for each of you to know your own individual role and to play your role to the best of your ability. It's important to communicate with your teammates as honestly as possible so they know what to expect from you. If I don't know something or can't help in a certain way, I let my team know. Then I work to strengthen that area, find out information, or find someone who can help better than I can. It's only fair to them and the student athletes.
It's also important to support your teammates in their roles and provide them constructive feedback. I routinely ask colleagues what I do that is helpful and what I can do to make our work even better. Sometimes there's no feedback and sometimes there is. I don't get upset. Rather I thank them for it, make sure I understand what they're saying, and work with them to do better next time. And you know what? This makes me better as a professional, us better as a team, and makes the student athletes better. Just like it will make you better, your teammates better, and your team as a whole better. Most importantly: do it WITHOUT EGO.
As always, this also applies to "teams" outside of sport. It applies to families, friendships, work relationships. You name it. Don't lose sight of what you're trying to accomplish and work together as a team. So often our ego gets in the way, and we spend too much time working against each other rather than WITH each other.
I encourage you to step back and reflect on how you're doing as a teammate both inside and outside of your sport. What are you doing well? What do you want to do better? What feedback would help you? Be curious about it and do it without ego.
Dr. Erin Haugen is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport/performance psychologist located in Grand Forks, ND. She specializes in helping college student-athletes excel in sports and in life. She is a former basketball player, current triathlete, and LOVES dogs.
Disclaimer: You should consult an appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.