Athletes who perform individual sports such as swimming and those who participate as team members in other sports such as hockey commonly have different characteristics. However, in general, the principles affecting Performance are similar. For example, both types of athletes live a regimen of training and competition. Also, relationships among members of a hockey team or a swimming team are crucial to performance.
Each successful sport team has to apply specific team roles for each member of the team, ideally those that are aligned with individual competencies. Optimizing performance is possible only when the team is well balanced by having a:
- Captain – to communicate and bridge the team members with coaches, and sometimes make tactical decisions on behalf of the coach.
- Leader – to lead the team to reach a goal by identifying and communicating strategies and leading by personal example. This role is important during critical moments of the competition or even during practice, in order to achieve specific goals outlined by the coach.
- Super Star – to do something that seems impossible or to shine. A Super Star may have concern for the team but their primary focus is on themselves and their individual performance and recognition. Super Stars may also set standards, which motivate those less talented to excel further. Many healthy teams have no more than one person of this calibre as team dynamics becomes more complicated and performance can suffer with too many.
- Team Members – to execute directions from the captain and the leader, and to support the Super Star in achieving individual results and hereby improve team performance.
Assignment of team roles must consider the character of individual athletes (e.g. one person cannot be a Team Member and a Super Star simultaneously because these roles require a completely different type of character). It is important for athletes and the coaches to understand their natural predisposition to perform in the right role. Trying to change the team’s natural division of roles (or working against character) creates conflict and chaos that lead to team or individual frustration and consequently performance may be affected.
It is important for a team to have complementary characters where the weaknesses of some individuals are offset by the strengths of others. For example, when a coach wants to set up a defence line, he may want to choose players with high tolerance as a character trait, because they will easily more easily accept the tactic and strategy of the opponent and develop a counter strategy, which may help the team to win the game. Low tolerance players are more inclined to reject the other team’s strategy rather than understand it.
The most successful tactics and strategies are those applied based on the athlete’s character strengths in the case of individual sports, and those based on the team members’ complementary strengths for team sports.