In a time when self promotion and self celebration seem to be the focus of an entire generation, Lara Mossman explains why teamwork is still the most effective game plan of all.

Nick Levett, FA National Development Manager, says that first and foremost we should be building good character in young people. It is sound advice for players developing their dream style of play because character plays an important role in goal achievement.

The field of positive psychology has identified 24 character strengths that can enable us to reach our highest potential. One of these character strengths is teamwork. Teamwork can be overlooked in a highly competitive player development environment; not in a technical and strategic sense, but in terms of player mentality. The 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning German side understood this nuance. They are lauded by pundits the world over for shirking the individual superstar in favour of an unstoppable team machine.

So how is the character strength of teamwork defined? It involves cooperating, excelling as a member of a team, being loyal and dedicated. It means pulling our weight, doing our fair share and working hard for the success of the group. It means rejecting any sense of entitlement, importance or superiority. Importantly, when we are part of a team we are serving something bigger than ourselves, which gives us purpose and increases our chances of sticking at our goals through tough times.

So, if it is one aspect of building good character, how can we begin to measure teamwork in ourselves? Sean Douglas, the FFA’s Advanced Coaching Manager, talked about the importance of self-reflection in his inaugural PDP article. The following questions, based on the principles of appreciative inquiry, are questions we can ask ourselves as part of a self-reflection process on teamwork.

“Without my teammates my game makes no sense.” – Xavi Hernandez

1. How well do I know my teammates?

On the way to optimal performance teams go through development stages, much like players do. Part of the development process involves forging strong relationships. We can accelerate this process by truly getting to know each player on our team. What unique strengths and capabilities do they demonstrate? How can we play to those strengths to optimize our team’s performance?

2. Am I a good role model for my teammates?

Brazilian football legend Pelé says, ‘A team is not one player, not one star. What makes a team strong is a sense of family.’ Looking at the bigger picture we can ask ourselves how we want to represent that family? What do we value? Do we value honesty, creativity, perseverance, work ethic or fairness? How can we role model these and inject positive energy into our team?

3. What is my team high point – a time where I feel most alive and full of energy?

What are the positive factors that give life to our team when it is at its best? We can start to pay attention to the moments when we feel most engaged, alive and vibrant. For many of us it can be when we are in the zone; reaching a milestone (first goal scored by a header), or seeing a teammate score for the first time. We can reflect on how we celebrate each other’s successes? Successes are not just found in wins, they can be found in these micro moments of our development. Celebrating successes can be turned into a team ritual to reinforce camaraderie and cultivate fun.

“It was an impressive performance. It’s the best team performance for Germany I’ve been involved in.” – Toni Kroos, German midfielder following Germany’s 7-1 semi-final defeat of Brazil.

Toni Kroos (left) for Germany. Photo: Steindy

Toni Kroos (left) for Germany. Photo: Steindy

04. How can I improve to increase my contribution to the team?

What would we like more of in our team? Can we imagine how much more potent our team would be if every person in it improved, even a little bit? What if each member made a personal player development goal? What if they didn’t reach their goal but made it halfway? Reflecting on these questions can give us to see the bigger picture of where we want to be in the future and to stay motivated to get there.

05. What would my team look like at the end of the season if everything were just as I wished it would be?

We should dare to dream about our team’s potential. What would it look like at its best? To get there, what would be different from now? How would we have contributed to this dream team? What skills would we need to be build to get there? What are our ambitions? What fitness and speed goals do we have? Goals and social networks are two of the most important factors in our well-being. Goals about others rather than personal gain are more energising and more likely to be achieved. So, ‘I want to be the best player I can be for my team’ is more energising and likely to lead to success than ‘I want to be the best player on my team so that I get picked for an elite squad.’

“The boys have also developed a team spirit which is unbelievable.” – Joachim Löw German national team

Cover Image:  Riccardo Cuppini


Biswas-Diener, R., & Dean, B. (2010). Positive psychology coaching: Putting the science of happiness to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. (2005). Appreciative inquiry: A positive revolution in change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York: Penguin Press.

Seligman, M. E. P., & Peterson, C. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol. 1): Oxford University Press. matches/round=255959/ match=300186501/quotes.html matches/round=255955/ match=300186474/quotes.html

Nick Levett watch?v=_RUjhGBMNX0

Sean Douglas PDP Article, Issue #1

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