Tuesday Tips: Seven Ways To Be a Better Teammate This Offseason

In this mega offseason, find time to be a great teammate.

Georgia's Marie Perivier with Atlanta Ozone, supporting a teammate at the 2017 Club Championships.
Georgia’s Marie Perivier with Atlanta Ozone, supporting a teammate at the 2017 Club Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

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We often think of being a teammate as being in the moment.

Images of rushing the field in joyous celebration fill our heads. Cheering support, good chemistry, and successful cooperation come to mind. However, being a good teammate isn’t just about playing well together on game day or celebrating at the party afterwards.

Instead, being a good teammate often takes extra effort, planning, and talking, and often takes place away from the field. This is especially true during the offseason, when it can feel very hard to connect. In fact, this is the period when it is not only hardest to be a good team member, but also the most important. 

Time away from the ultimate field is both when we tend to struggle and when we are often working the hardest to make individual improvements. People are alone, working on their skills, planning for the future, and doing their best to prepare for the next season. And this is more true this year than ever.

It’s actually the time when we need our teammates the most.

Take the offseason, then, to reach out and be a better friend and support member. You’ll find it will make your entire squad stronger because of it.

1. Check In and Connect

Step one is an easy one: check in on your teammates. 

There are some ultimate friends we talk to all the time when not on the field together, but there are many that we don’t interact with at all, save for perhaps laughing at their latest post on social media. 

Start by reaching out and asking for a conversation, even if it is via text, email, or phone. This tentative hangout can be a good way to reconnect and deepen friendship. Oftentimes, we are thrust together with teammates through near randomness, but this intentional connection will make the bond much stronger.

Sometimes a check-in is as easy as having dinner over Zoom, talking on the phone during your commute home, or sending emails back and forth rehashing the highs and lows of last season. Conversation is a good place to start, and feel free to make it related to ultimate or life in general. Before you know it, you’ll be laughing and happy you reached out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

Just doing this is a win. It makes your chemistry stronger and sparks a good dynamic. But there may be even more chances for growth.

You’ll find this creates an important opportunity to be available if a teammate is in genuine need. 

2. Ask For Help! Use Your Vulnerability (Your Weakness)

In any initial conversation with a teammate, take a moment to be vulnerable.

This is important for two reasons.

First, it allows for a much more genuine connection, especially for you. You’ll find that if you talk about something you are struggling with, you can skip past much of the social small talk and get to the heart of real issues. That’s what makes companionship on a team so powerful: you have people who can back you up and help you when you need it.

The vulnerability can be about sports or it can be personal. You can talk about working on your forehands hucks, your putting in disc golf, or your struggle to improve your strength in weight lifting. In real life terms, it can be something as trivial as being bored at work to as monumental as the fact that you’ve really been missing your family lately.

A good conversation on this topic might provide genuine help for you, and, in general, strengthen your bond of friendship with a teammate.

Second, however, it allows for an important opening. Letting yourself be vulnerable enough to talk about an area of need will naturally give the person you’re talking to an opportunity. That person can both act as a helper and guide to you, which is valuable on many fronts, but also then has a chance to safely share if something is bothering them. 

Ask for help to encourage time together. If you are willing to ask for advice concerning around breaks or how to deal with a thorny issue with your significant other, you are not only more likely to walk away feeling that you had a real and powerful conversation, but you’re also more likely to have a second conversation or hangout in mind for the future.

3. Give Help! Use Your Confidence (Your Strength)

Once you’ve asked for help, you can find ways to support your teammates in turn.

Remember, being a member of a team doesn’t just mean being there when it is convenient. Offering up your talent and your time is a key part of being a good friend and squadmate.

The trick is to do this in a way that isn’t pushy or condescending, however. You don’t want to take this time to humble brag, preach, or criticize the other person’s life. 

Make a genuine offer. Say something like, “I’ve been helping So-And-So by checking in with her weekly on her workout goals. Would you be interested if I did the same for you?”

Or better yet, let the other person lead the conversation. If you’re vulnerable first, there’s a good chance they will follow suit and mention something they are struggling with. Whether ultimate related or not, you can be there for them. At the very least, being present and willing to listen can make a huge difference. However, then taking the next step and offering to talk further, give advice in a careful way, or spend some time working for another person is going to make a world of difference.

When people think of you as a teammate, let them think of this: that you were a person who truly did want to help and you showed up when it mattered.

4. Change the Team’s Direction and Advocate

Just like being vulnerable, advocacy requires honesty and a willingness to reach out and go the extra mile. Being a better teammate in the off-season can also be about asking for things of your teammates or your leadership. If you have big ideas, goals, or plans, now is the time to share them and ask your group to try to make them happen.

For ultimate-focused goals, this can be something like asking the team to increase pod workouts or to make a change in team strategy in the off-season.

For bigger ideas, this could be asking the squad to volunteer in their community, do more to fundraise for causes that the group believes in, or make social justice or equity a major priority.

Being a good teammate isn’t always following, but is sometimes leading. Advocate for yourself and for others, for ideas and concepts, and for making the team better overall. Ask for help and push the group in a better direction.

5. Organize or Participate in Fun Events 

A major part of being a good teammate is being there with others.

At the basic level, be present and willing to show up to team activities, events, Zoom calls, and more. Also be willing to be there when an individual teammate wants to hang, talk, or learn. Sometimes, it means being the one to organize. 

Time is sometimes our most valuable resource, but being willing to spend it to connect is never a waste.

Take charge when you can and come up with ideas for the group to hangout.

Ideas include:

  • A team film session for fun (watching a game as a spectator)
  • A team film session to learn (analyzing and teaching each other)
  • Team banquet/awards
  • Guest speakers or learning sessions where the team can be educated on important concepts
  • White elephant gift exchange
  • Group happy hours
  • Game nights
  • Outdoor outings/hikes/disc golf
  • Team trivia

Most of these can be done virtually, since meeting up with other people is not an option for many at this time.

Be willing to put yourself out there to enjoy time with your teammates or take the step to organize a fun event. Likewise, be present to another person if they need one-on-one time or want to connect with you.

6. Improve Together (Share!)

At its most fundamental core, being a teammate is about helping others succeed. How do you do that? Get better together.

Just like organizing fun times, try to organize safe ways to improve your playing. This can be done in person or online. Here are some examples:

  • Sharing your tips on defense
  • Filming yourself and asking for critiques
  • Throwing sessions
  • Giving tips on throws
  • Sharing strategies
  • Pointing out plays from other teams
  • Sharing mindsets or meditations
  • Pod workouts/ ideas
  • Sharing workout plans/ videos
  • Sharing information/ informational videos
  • Writing a blog

Sometimes, your perspective may not seem very important, but is actually very valuable (and others can learn from it). Or, something that seems obvious to you might be a really good tip for someone else. Either way, sharing your experience (and the improvement experience itself) with others is beneficial. It is always good to reflect and think about ultimate.

Write a blog, send an email, encourage a discussion! There are so many ways to spark this group improvement. One great example from Emilie Willingham was sending out a daily quiz on the rulebook to encourage knowledge of tough situations in the game. Texting your top three defensive tips to the group chat might get a debate going and might teach you something too.

Any little effort can help you and your team improve.

7. Follow Through

The final step is perhaps the most important: you need to follow through.

It is too easy (and too common) to say: “We should get together sometime and talk about zone defense or work on our throws.” And then it is far too easy to never actually do it.

Don’t read this article and come up with a bunch of ideas for your team without actually doing any. Start small. Pick one idea and run with it. Follow up with one person. Especially be mindful of who needs your time and follow-through the most. If someone has been vulnerable or asked for your help, be willing to be the good teammate that can actually provide it.

Remember, the best part of having good teammates is having someone pick you up and back you up when you need it most. Follow through and be the best teammate you can be. 

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  1. Alex Rummelhart

    Alex "UBER" Rummelhart is an Ultiworld reporter. He majored in English at the University of Iowa, where he played and captained IHUC. He lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois, where he has played for several ultimate teams, including the Chicago Wildfire and Chicago Machine. Alex loves writing of all types, especially telling interesting and engaging stories. He is the author of the novel The Ultimate Outsider, one of the first fictional works ever written about ultimate.

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