The idea here is that your own team becomes the greatest competition you face.
I got this clear revelation last Friday as I was sorting out the final roster for my C team during evaluation week for the middle school PE Class I teach. Due to a high number of players, we have decided to split the C team into two balanced teams, Team Blue and Team White. Now the foundation has been set for how we will compete all season long: we will start amongst ourselves. Blue and White will be fighting all season long for the practice crown. (And yes, we will be keeping track of wins of losses.) The good news is that it is a win-win situation. By that I mean that no matter what happens, if we compete our best against each other, we will always come out better for it.
There really is no better way to look at your coaching than from this standpoint. The truth is, your team is only going to be as good as the players you compete against in practice every single day. This clarifies many things, one of them being how important the roles are of the players who don't start the game. They are not only counted on to come off the bench in the games to provide fresh energy, but they are also counted on to push the starters in practice and to challenge their position on the team.
As a player
This is a challenge that starts within yourself. This is the time to reflect on what your role currently is on the team and a time to focus on where you want to be in the future. For example, if you are not a starter, but would like to become one, the time to act is during practice, when you are playing against them during drills or scrimmages. Do not get frustrated in this process; you must understand and trust that your team is stronger overall due to your maximum effort and determination. When you look at it that way, it makes the entire experience fun for everyone involved. If you are already a starter, but want to become even better, this is the time to expand your skills and challenge yourself in new ways.
Set higher goals for yourself, and your teammates will have no choice but to follow suit. That is the true beauty of competition.
As a coach
Your job is to make sure that this process takes place from the beginning. It is an attitude meant to be adopted, and the only way that it happens is if you make it happen. Find the best ways to motivate your players so that they will value competing against one another day in and day out. Try to be mindful of the different ways each individual player reacts to your specific way of communicating and adjust the feedback as soon as you can detect it.
Sometimes taking the time to find new pathways of communication is all that is needed to shape a healthier, more competitive environment.
The end result should feel more like fun than anything else, and you will know that you are successful at achieving this idea when the official games are easier and more fun to play.
Four time All-American, WNBA Champion, Edutainer and Coach