Column: Sports Health: By Liz Ostrowski

Now that fall sports have started coaches are trying to get their players in shape for the season. With the new rules preventing two-a-day practices in football, coaches have been getting creative with their practices and emphasizing more work off the field dealing with team building and being good role models. It’s never been a secret in sports that a team with great teamwork will beat a team that can’t work together. One of the greatest coaches of all time, Phil Jackson said “good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the me for the we.”

How can coaches teach their players to have teamwork off the field? The first thing coaches do are team building exercises where they have to work together to reach a goal. Most people have tried something like a trust fall where one person must fall backward and your teammates must catch you. This is only one example of many team building exercises. Some other great ways I have seen coaches build teamwork is creating a skit or song together that they have to present to the team.

All of the team building exercises not only help the athletes play better on the field and gain trust in one another but it also builds their character and makes them better citizens. Athletics has never been just about performing on the field and winning games. People in the community look to athletes as role models for good behavior. Many of the meetings outside of practice have become about helping the athletes become better citizens and in turn better role models.

Most athletic teams also do community service and use their talents for good. It might be as simple as reading a book to a child or helping someone carry their groceries to their vehicle or house. Some teams even have an adopt-a-highway stretch to help keep our environment clean. Our athletes typically are recognized by the communities they live in and are always in the public eye.

Coaches have been working hard to teach their players the skills of the game and always trying to show their athletes how being a great athlete is only part of what they do but to also be great citizens in the community and pay it forward. Our society seems to hold athletes to the role model position whether they want it or not. Being a role model on and off the field is a tough job for our athletes but they can be great role models with support from family, friends, and teammates.

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