Knowing and Accepting Team Roles – Part 1

team_roles_postUnderstanding and accepting roles is one of the biggest areas for developing a successful team. The obvious problem with getting individuals to play roles is that certain roles have more outside appeal than others. Who gets the most praise and pats on the back after the games? Too often it is the player who scored the most points, not the one who made the perfect pass or made the painful check. Coach, parent, and player attention to the “glamour” roles is one of the biggest obstacles for getting individuals to accept and embrace less popular roles. However, these roles are absolutely critical to your team’s success.

Championship teams have players who not only accept these roles, but understand their significance and value to the team and they actually take pride in playing them. As Pat Riley says, “The key to teamwork is to learn a role, accept that role, and strive to become excellent playing it.”

Accepting Roles

Your goal as a coach is to have your players accept and embrace the role that they are given. When each player accepts his/her role and takes pride in playing it, your team will have its best chance of being successful. How do you get your players to understand and accept their roles?


Defining Roles

A key aspect of role acceptance is helping to clearly define roles for each of the players. Role definition means that each player knows what is expected of him/her both on the court and off the court. It includes the responsibilities that they are expected to handle and fulfill. Let’s take the six-time NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls as an example. Steve Kerr/John Paxson basically had to find the opening and knock down the outside jumper. Dennis Rodman/Horace Grant had two responsibilities, rebound and defend. Ron Harper just had to play defense. It’s usually your superstars who have to take on additional roles (Jordan & Pippen). But the majority of the “role” players just need to play their role effectively and everything else takes care of itself. Each player should have one or two primary responsibilities that when executed successfully, propel the team toward its ultimate goal.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Jeff Janssen and Steve Horan of for the above article.
The Colorado Avalanche and are trademarks of the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Team, Inc. NHL and the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup are registered trademarks and the NHL Shield and NHL Conference logos are trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 2008 Colorado Avalanche and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.