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How to Build a Team in Youth Sports

girls in a huddle

Have you ever considered the possibility that the behaviors you find most aggravating within your team might be undercover superpowers?

While we know resiliency is one’s ability to overcome adversity, it’s also important to recognize hidden resilience, which is the ability to overcome adversity using behaviors that are not always viewed as positive. Searching for hidden resilience means taking traditionally ‘bad behaviors’ and figuring out how to flip them to find a positive skill.

Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, gives the example of a player who’s always calling others out for things they’re doing wrong. While the habit may be negatively received by their teammates, the athlete might actually have the makings of a good coaching assistant if those critiques could be channeled positively.

According to Kyba, there is often some hidden resilience behind bullying-type behaviors. But how can you help shift those problematic behaviors to more positive ones?

1. Look beyond the surface

Bullying behaviors are obviously not acceptable on a team, but don’t stop at simply shutting it down. Try to understand what is causing the behavior.

"Some of the reasons an athlete might be bullying others is because they're looking for a chance to be accepted and have meaningful participation, or they're looking for self-determination,” says Kyba. "They want to take charge of what happens to them, so they're creating those outcomes for themselves by bullying other people.” That kind of hidden resilience is a protection mechanism, often hiding a fear of failure or embarrassment.

2. Remember kids are smarter than you think

“If a child can anticipate an outcome, even if it's going to be a negative outcome, they may do that thing because at least there is predictability,” says Kyba. For example, if a child is extremely nervous about the outcome of a big game, they may actively try to talk back during practice or show up late in order to guarantee they get benched.

If you can talk to an athlete who you suspect is using that kind of behavior to avoid feelings of vulnerability, you may be able to help them set and manage new expectations, and give them new tools for developing as an athlete and a human.


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