Being a Teenager in Sport: How to Deal With Difficult Teammates

Encountering difficult teammates in sports is inevitable, especially at the teenage level. Individuals at this age are continuing to find their friend groups and develop a self-identity; that is, who they are and what their interests are. This can affect how an athlete communicates and interacts with his or her teammates, for the better or for the worse. There are bound to be teammates that you may not get along with. Many athletes that play team sports may not necessarily like a certain teammate. Below are four steps to combat this common problem.

1. Identify why you are angry, frustrated, or upset with your teammate/s: Are you jealous of them because they are more talented than you? Do they trash talk or say unnecessary comments on the court? With this information and defining what constitutes a “difficult teammate”, it will allow you to brainstorm a solution.

  • If it has to do with your own jealous feelings, ask yourself why. Are you feeling pressure to achieve? Is this related to something that happened in your own past? Or are you just feeling insecure about yourself? By answering these questions, you may find it has nothing to do with that particular person but more about you. On the other hand, if it’s because the other person is really being a jerk, sometimes the best solution may be to ignore it and understand that it’s the other person’s issue and that you can’t control the uncontrollable. By accepting that and moving on, you will be able to focus on and block out that teammate’s unnecessary behavior, remarks, etc. 

2. Ask your coach: If you don’t feel like you have a solution still with the aforementioned steps, talk to your coach. It is important to remember that your coach is there to help you and is on your side. Your coach may shed some light as to why this particular teammate acts this way. By doing this, it may help you understand where your teammate is coming from and to empathize more. At the end of the day, you, your teammate, and your coach are all a part of the same team so finding a way to cooperate and work as a collective will be effective in winning games and simply enjoying the team sport environment. 

3. Focus on the positive part of being on the team and do what makes you happy: Remember that you enjoy the sport. Focus on developing your skills and make that a priority rather than focusing on the negative feelings associated with the difficult teammate. Hang out with your friends and the supportive teammates that make you happy to be on the team.  

Being an athlete means pushing yourself, including putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. Dealing with frustrated teammates that blame mistakes on you or that have a negative attitude is definitely uncomfortable. Don’t quit! It is important not to dwell on these roadblocks to a positive experience, but rather bounce back. In other words, it may be tough to be surrounded by constant negativity but building resilience is key to performing at an optimal level. Finding a way to work with your teammates will translate on the court and positive benefits will only come out of a new relationship. Alternatively, if you have to work around a teammate that isn’t open to building a good relationship, your commitment to make the situation better for yourself is going to help you and your game regardless.  I hope these tips help and they can be applied to many other common situations in sports as well as outside of sports. Remember, that the comeback is always stronger than the setback. 


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