Knowing and Accepting Team Roles – Part 3 of 3

team_player_recognition_post1Understanding and accepting roles is one of the biggest areas for developing a successful team. This is Part 3 of the article “Knowing and Accepting Team Roles.” In this article we discuss getting your players to appreciate their role on the team.

Role Appreciation

Perhaps the biggest key leading to your players’ accepting their roles is role appreciation. What you are trying to do is to create a sense of pride in playing a role. You want each player to understand the contribution that they make to the team and to take pride in it, regardless of whether it is valued by the fans or the media. Phil Jackson acknowledged the importance of role playing in his book Sacred Hoops. “I knew that the only way to win consistently was to give everybody - from the stars to the number 12 player on the bench - a vital role on the team.”

Nails and Glue Awards

Getting people to accept roles requires that you appreciate them. By appreciating them for playing roles, your players begin to understand that their role is valued and ultimately important to the team’s reaching its common goal. As Rick Pitino says, “Recognize the people who get less attention in the group because they’re not in the glamorous positions. Thank them publicly for their unselfishness and do it in front of their peers.” While the fans and media may overlook some vital roles, you can appreciate them in a more effective way through team awards.

One such award that I have developed with teams is called the “Nails” award and the “Glue” award. We created the Nails award to acknowledge and appreciate the mental toughness of the player(s) who is “mentally tough as nails.” The award is given on a weekly basis and is voted on by the team. The players are not allowed to vote for themselves. The Glue award focuses on team aspects and is symbolized by the “glue that binds the team together.” The players vote for the teammate who had the best team attitude demonstrated by encouraging his/her teammates and/or making individual sacrifices.

You can create various awards for whatever roles you deem important to your team’s success - like recognizing the player with the most rebounds, assists, charges taken, or screens. Let your players come up with the names for the award. You can either determine your award based on objective stats or have your team vote for the player they felt did the best job. Announce the award at practice, put up a sheet on the player’s locker, and add his/her name to the main award list in the locker room.


Your team’s success relies on your ability to get your players to understand and accept their roles. Use the previous suggestions to help you define and appreciate each player’s role, and soon your team will be on a roll!

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.