So often in sports we hear coaches try to compare their team to a family. It is intended to be a very positive and encouraging assessment. However, it is also a cliché that I’m not always sure translates to all young athletes.

The reason is that some players grow up in broken homes with dysfunctional families, and don’t necessarily understand what a healthy family is, nor how one operates.

For those athletes, being asked to be a part of a team that functions like a family isn’t a particularly appealing invitation.

The flipside of that scenario happens to also be true.

Last week, I traveled to West Virginia to speak to a group of Title I parents. It was a wonderful group and I really enjoyed spending time with them.

The topic of my presentation was Seeing Your Family as a Team.

Just as players who lack familiarity with a healthy family model struggle to understand teams functioning like families, there are families who are not well-versed in sports and find it difficult to understand the concept of a team.

As I always do, I pointed out to the audience that every organization strives to incorporate the concept of teamwork into their operations. But the reality is that teamwork will never happen without the infusion of good teammates—individuals who have a “team-first” mindset and a willingness to make sacrifices for their team.

I also explained to them the three elements that differentiate a team from just another group. I would like to now share this information with you (…because good teammates share!):

1. TEAMS HAVE COMMONALITY. Sometimes the easiest way to notice commonality is in the team’s uniformity. The Pittsburgh Steelers all wear black and gold. The New York Yankees all wear pinstripes.

Although I have met plenty of families who love their camouflage and do seem to arguably have a family “uniform,” families don’t have to dress alike to have commonality. It can come in the form of a shared fondness for Disney or a particular television show. Commonality can be achieved by simply living under the same roof or traveling together in the same vehicle.

2. TEAMS HAVE DEFINED ROLES. Quarterbacks pass. Running backs run. Linemen block. Linebackers tackle. Every position on a football team has a role. Likewise, parents are parents and children are supposed to be children. Each of those roles is accompanied by its own unique set of responsibilities.

When who does what role gets muddied, dysfunction inevitably occurs. When the behavior of the parent forces the child to take on the role of being the responsible adult in the family, it is the same as a lineman deciding to become the player who passes the ball instead of the player who is supposed to be blocking.

Everybody has a role, and everybody does their role to the best of their ability.

3. TEAMS HAVE A SHARED OBJECTIVE. The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to win the Super Bowl. The New York Yankees are trying to win the World Series.

What is the objective of your family? Do you have one? The best families do.

In my family, we want to use the gifts we were given to help others and make the world a better place. That is our family objective, and it remains at the forefront of our daily choices.

If you can get your family to have commonality, defined roles, and shared objectives, then you can get your family to be more than a group. You can get them to be a team—a winning team.

Remember: Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

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