Monday, March 5, 2012

Player Success in Team Sports—Finding Your Role (Part 2: Primary and Secondary Roles)

  My recent articles on How a Coach Builds a Team and Player Success in Team Sports—Finding Your Role (Part 1) both emphasized the importance of team roles and how they affect the success of individual players and their teams.

In part one of Finding Your Role, I gave you an overview of a simple process that you can follow to discover where you best fit your team and coach's needs. As I pointed out, this approach can help you identify the available team roles and which ones best fit your abilities.

By targeting the right roles, you can improve your chance to make a team, gain more minutes, and play in a way that is appreciated by both your teammates and coach.

Because roles are so important to finding success in team sports, let's dig a little deeper into this topic.

Although we can view team roles from a few different perspectives, let's start by breaking them down into two major categories: Primary and Secondary.

Primary Team Roles

Every sport requires excellence in certain primary roles. In basketball, most successful teams require quality play at the point guard and low post positions. A successful basketball team also usually requires that someone play the important functional role of “scorer.”

Each team sport has its primary positional and functional roles. A pro football team’s most important positional role is the quarterback. Baseball games are more often won by the team that has excellent pitchers. Soccer, hockey, and lacrosse teams need a forward who can "score" and a goalie who can "defend."

Failure at key positions can doom a team’s chances for success, negating any advantage the team may have at other positions. For instance, a basketball team that lacks a guard to bring the ball up the court against a pressure defense will rarely have the opportunity to get the ball to its outstanding big men.

These primary roles tend to go to the better athletes and individuals with exceptionally strong skills that match the requirements of the associated position. But through diligent training and effort, less talented athletes can sometimes succeed in these primary roles.

If you’re expecting to play one of these “glory” positions, understand that you will need to show your coach that you have the required talent and skills.

Secondary Team Roles

While there are only a few primary team roles available, there are many secondary roles. You should understand that these secondary roles are essential to a team’s success. Understand also, that almost every coach appreciates this truth.

These roles encompass all the “little” things that lead to a team’s success. Examples of functional secondary team roles include “defender”, “ball-handler”, “rebounder”, and “utility man.”
TIP: Each player who plays a secondary role benefits from having the ability to additionally play other roles. For example, a basketball player who is an outstanding defender, but is also a good passer and threat to score, provides more value to a team (and its coach).
Again, try to identify any attributes you possess that can lead to success in one of your sport’s secondary roles. In Part 1, I discussed the "defender" role. If you have a stubborn, persistent nature, are reasonably quick, and possess good endurance you may find success in that role in any number of sports. Other functional roles are also available to you. For example, if you lack outstanding athleticism, but have the ability to accurately focus on and consistently hit a target, you may still find success as a “shooter” (spot-up shooter in basketball, football place-kicker, etc.).

Remember that coaches are always looking to find players to fill team roles.
WARNING: Playing a secondary role well only takes you so far. If you’re missing an essential skill, it’s less likely that you will find success playing that sport.

Your Role Can Change

As you mature and continue to develop your skills, the team role you play often changes.

A physical change can suddenly provide you with the ability to excel in an entirely different role or position. For example, the middle school volleyball setter who gains a foot in height after puberty may become a hitter on his high school volleyball team.

Skill development can also lead to a different team role. A basketball shooting guard, for instance, may work hard to improve his or her ball-handling skills and evolve into an outstanding point guard.

Good coaches constantly evaluate their player’s ability and skill. They realize that individual player development is a path to improving their team’s likelihood for success.
TIP: Your role may change as you move to higher levels of competition. Where once you were the outstanding athlete and “scorer”, you may now play a secondary role. Be prepared to adapt, especially when you first move to a higher level.

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

The Joy of Youth Sports
If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


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