The Importance of Role Clarity and Acceptance in Team Athletics

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Successful teams are complex and not entirely dependent on having the best players. Of course talent, practice, are hard work are vital, but what about the structure of the team, who fulfills certain roles, how those roles are perceived, and how well the roles are carried out?  In order for a team to function at it’s highest level possible, each athlete must have a clear role that he understands completely, and he must be at peace with that role therefore accepting it (Beuchamp, Bry, Fielding, & Eys 2005).  If a player is second string and comes in when a teammate needs a rest, he must understand and truly believe in the importance of his contribution. By him playing and even keeping status quo, he will allow his teammate to come back in rested, which is important for his overall team success.

Effective goal setting can be useful to clarify roles (Weinberg and Gould 2007). These goals should be specific and attainable. Now the players can understand more clearly what their technical job is (ie: what exactly a setter is responsible for in volleyball) and if they are in a leadership or support role, none being less important than the other. Coaches can certainly make recommendations, but it is likely the players will take more ownership and be more committed if they are empowered to choose their role.

In order for role acceptance to have a chance, status needs to be taken off the table. The emphasis should be on the importance of individual contributions that are vital to team success. Not everyone on the bench is the best athlete on the team, however it is imperative that everyone on the bench plays like he is the MVP. If every athlete is clear on his role and recognized as an important contributor, he is likely to rise to what he is capable of, consistently.

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