The summer is coming to a close which means athletes are gearing up for a new season with a new attitude, new goals, and a new grind. A new season can mean getting acquainted with some new teammates, too.
Just like preseason training is fundamental to building a team on a firm foundation, making new athletes feel welcome to a team can solidify their sense of belonging and hopefully add to the stability of the entire squad.
I always click on those back-to-school videos of faculty welcoming their students with genuine gladness and celebratory high-fives outside near the carpool area. I also can’t resist clicking on those videos of athletes getting surprised with scholarships and watching their teammates suffocate them with bear hugs afterward. I guess I’m drawn to them because those types of moments set the tone and send the message to incoming students and athletes that the teams of people around them have full confidence in them and that they're going to try their best to achieve great things together.
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Whether a new teammate has a full-ride and is projected to make an immediate impact or a walk-on who has high-ceiling potential or an athlete looking to shed the past with commitment to a fresh start, joining a team should mean having the assurance of being seen and known by the folks you’ll be side by side with.
Try not to see newcomers as fresh meat, but fellow partners, as potential mentors who can elevate your work ethic and mentees you can pour into. Try to lead with compassion instead of insecurity. Too often we’ve seen how much fear, hazing, and intimidation tactics costs schools their programs, cost young men and women immense pain and in some cases even worse—their lives.
Grafting in the athlete who’s an outsider is not only beneficial to a team’s chemistry, but it also gives believers on the team an opportunity to model a love that invites, envelopes, and defies the notion that rookies need be embarrassed before they can be embraced (Romans 12:10).
Here’s some things to keep in mind for returning teammates:
Be Helpful - Be approachable and available. It can be a bumpy process trying to find your place in a new environment, but it’s a bit easier when you have a trusted guide to turn to. Take the opportunity to accelerate the orientation phase by helping new teammates feel comfortable and confident. Tell them about your team culture, give unofficial tours of your campus or brief them on who’s who on the yard or in the athletic department. Think about the things you wish you’d known when you first stepped foot on campus.
Be Interested -- Everyone has a story. Take interest in how your new teammate’s journey to the team unfolded. You’ll be around them at least once everyday at practice but your interactions may be few and far between. Be intentional about making a genuine investment of your time with the new kid on the block so you’ll have a deeper point of connection whenever you hit the field.
Be Inclusive -- Invite your new teammate to your favorite coffee spot, late night grubhub, a team movie night or whatever activity nourishes your soul. Don’t let them sit alone in the dining hall. If they’re not interested or have other plans, just let them know the invitation is always open. Team cohesiveness contributes to the overall emotional health of your squad.
Here’s some advice for new teammates joining new teams:
Be Humble -- Being recruited has the potential to make egos swell. Try not to confuse the energy around your arrival to the team with entitlement. Be humble so you won’t have to get humbled. Don’t deny your talent. Definitely believe in how you can use your God-given gifts to position yourself and your team for success. That will be revealed as you put in the work. But also acknowledge that everything you have comes from the Lord. Keep a healthy perspective.
Be Observant -- Hear what your teammates say, but also watch what they do. Keep an eye out for how your teammates treat each other, the custodial workers, academic advisors, etc. See if they honor people’s time well, how they relate to fans or how they carry themselves. Ask yourself if the behavior patterns you see are ones you want to aspire to emulate or not.
Be Willing to Ask for Help -- Transitions can be tough. Learning a new routine or a new playbook on top of adjusting to campus life and getting acquainted with new professors can be overwhelming. Your teammates can probably relate. If there are teammates you feel comfortable reaching out to, approach them and don’t feel shy about picking up the phone.
Just as Christ followers belong to a chosen family, so do teammates. This season, believers on teams across the country have a chance to show the newest members of their squad what it means to be pursue greatness together with the confidence of being embraced from Day One.