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In prior blog posts, we've discussed Teammate Roles and Team Dynamics. In this post, we're going to be talking about being a good teammate on your Star Course. Regardless of your team role, everyone is responsible for being a good teammate. Encouraging your team when the going gets tough, staying positive and keeping the energy and enthusiasm up are important to reaching your collective goal.
Good communication and transparency are crucial for all teammates. Some skills to keep in mind:
Be a good listener. Listening actively and with an open mind can save your team headaches down the line. If something needs clarification, ask. Most people like knowing that the people they rely on, in this case, the team, will actively hear their concerns or thoughts. If you're too busy thinking about how you'll respond, or how to cut their concern down, you may be missing some important details. Taking the time to actively listen makes you a good teammate.
In the same vein, if you have a concern about a plan, it's always better to speak up than to keep quiet. You may save your team from a costly mistake. Be concise and direct. If there is a disagreement, try not to take anything personally.
Good communication with your teams also means discussing things about yourself. Let everyone know of any physical issues you have that may need to be monitored or addressed. Good teammates have everyone’s best interests at heart.
Positivity is contagious. It keeps your team energetic and enthusiastic, regardless of the situation you're facing. Be positive, but balance it with practicality. It's tempting for some personalities to be optimistic to the point of being blinded to the realities of rucking 50 miles. Look for potential roadblocks prior to the event. Acknowledge the challenges your team might face but create and encourage a positive and goal-oriented mindset to manage expectations and instill a sense of resiliency from the start.
Encourage your teammates, and look for solutions when things go wrong. How can you make the best of whatever situation you find yourselves in?
Be dependable, and come in prepared physically, mentally and logistically. This starts long before the day of the event. Every day you train, you're helping your team and yourself. Start preparing yourself now for the Finish, and encourage your teammates to keep up with their training as well. Having the team become accountability buddies for one another prior to the event will help everyone become more successful.
Often, teammates may struggle to ask for help, because they aren't communicating effectively. They may think it's they've done a job poorly and are afraid to admit perceived failure. Be empathetic and be on the lookout to help. Build your teammate back up when they're struggling. Compassion and empathy can be a reminder to your teammate that they CAN do whatever they are struggling with.
Be willing to accept help too. It may hurt your ego to have someone carry your ruck for a while. If it’s better for the team, let them take your ruck for a while. Team before self. Appreciate the willingness of others to give you a break.
Tempers will flare. Understand and discuss this with your team prior to the event, and plan to react with understanding and patience. Often, expecting trouble to arise can mitigate the damage and time delays of a disagreement. Planning for everything includes planning to maintain a good attitude and keeping your ego in check.
Physiology and psychology can come together around mid-way in a 50-mile event. The central fatigue theory is well known about in the marathon community, but not discussed much yet in ours. Central fatigue is a hypothesis, but one you should be familiar with for any long-distance event. If you've ever "hit the wall," you're already acquainted with its effects. Simplistically, central fatigue is when your brain chemicals (like serotonin) increase leading to mental fatigue, causing a deterioration in sports performance. Coupled with a lack of energy resources in the muscle and the central nervous system, the athletes form deteriorates. Central fatigue can set up the classic "I'm quitting" scenario. Carbohydrates (and BCAA's possibly) can improve the situation, but awareness of the possibility for this to exist can have everyone prepared ahead of time, both practically and psychologically.
Be aware of your teammates’ body language/behavior, in case they aren’t as good at communicating. Are they head-down and struggling? Oddly quiet? Has their form started breaking down? What can you do to help them, physically or mentally? While your first instinct might be to give your teammate some space, it’s important that everyone is aware of the physical signs someone might not be doing well. Some questions to ask when you notice these signs:
- Are they staying on top of eating and drinking?
- Are they taking restroom breaks (a sign that they’re staying on top of drinking)?
- Are they over-drinking (risking hyponatremia)?
These are signs that your teammate may need medical care:
- Do they have excessive fatigue, shortness of breath or wheezing (this doesn’t include heavy breathing during exercise)?
- Are they lightheaded, pale or blue, nauseous or cold/clammy?
- Are they dizzy and confused, or not making sense, or have fainted?
- Do they have leg cramps that do not go away with salt tabs and electrolytes?
- Is their heart rate very high when stopped and resting and their heart rate does not return to normal?
Always carry a basic First Aid kit with you, including baby aspirin and a pair of latex gloves, and never hesitate to call 911 when it appears a teammate might not be doing well. Often, an athlete may not realize they are having a serious medical problem, and being a good teammate means taking control of the situation, stopping and caring for someone who might be having the onset of more serious issues.
Ultimately, being a good teammate is about being a good human. You listen, you speak up, and you care for the person to the left and right of you.