I think one of the most important aspects of a team’s identity in any team sport is trust. The very best moments in ultimate happen when all 7 players on the field are threats to score, move the disc, and make plays on defense. This can only happen when every player on the field trusts their teammates to perform at a high level.
What does trust look like?
This is a hard question to answer and I think it’s often easier to recognize a lack of trust, but here are some signs that a team trusts each other.
- Quick disc movement where many players touch the disc; the ever-elusive “flow”.
- Team Ds that result from everyone on the team shutting people down until a high count.
- Support and encouragement from the sideline between and during points.
- Open communication between players giving and receiving constructive feedback with the goal of improving as individuals.
One of our goals for this season is to build up every player on our roster to the point where the entire team trusts each other to be on the field in the big moments. Everybody should feel confident that their teammates will make the right plays at the right times.
So, how does this happen? How do we develop trust between teammates? Here are a few ideas but this is certainly not an exhaustive list.
- The team needs to communicate well with each other. When things go right talk about the things that worked, and when things go wrong be constructive about how to fix them. Instead of being angry and frustrated, focus on the things we can control and continuously support and encourage each other to succeed.
- Openness/Transparency. Trust is developed when the team understands why decisions are being made and how those decisions are being made. We trust the decisions of the team leadership partly because we are able to see the process.
- Simply spending time together. Time spent driving to tournaments, hanging out at the hotel, chatting between games is all important and valuable time. Get to know your teammates and let them get to know you! Trust comes partly from familiarity.
- Leadership. Captains need to demonstrate trust in the players on the team to play by giving them opportunities to succeed. But leadership doesn’t just come from the appointed captains and coaches though, every player on the team should have the goal of making their teammates succeed. This can mean many things: maybe it’s spending time with another player after practice working on a particular throw, maybe it’s organizing extra throwing for people in your city, maybe it’s clearing hard to make space and trusting that a teammate will make the right cut, maybe it’s trusting another handler to get open on the bail, maybe it’s helping the players on the field from the sideline.
- Finally, and most importantly, practice is the best place for trust to develop. Instead of writing about it, I’m just going to quote the article that inspired this post.
Your goal for every practice should be to make your teammates better in every drill, every sprint, and every scrimmage. If you play your hardest, most physical D on a player, you are going to push them to get better. Likewise, on Offense, if you make it your goal to punish whoever is covering you by making hard real cuts, they are going to learn how to play better and better D. Challenge them to get better. Set the bar higher and higher for them each practice, and through these battles, you will get better by them pushing you to do the same.
Look your teammates in the eyes at the end of practice. Look at them with the pride of knowing that you pushed them and they, in turn, pushed back. By the end of the season, when you look them in the eye, you will also see the complete trust in knowing that no other team is going to push as hard as you pushed each other. That is a wonderful and unstoppable feeling.