A team is formed from the qualities, abilities/skills and characteristics of each athlete. Each athlete’s characteristic is visualized in the team as a whole so that all together they form a competitive and efficient team. Selecting the people who will share the field during the competition is not an easy task. For example, during the history of sports we have very good examples of teams that have achieved such mastery and such an efficient relationship. An example of this could be the team of “the Galacticos” of Real Madrid, the Spanish basketball team formed by the Gasol family or the Spanish football team during the Del Bosque era. In these teams, the characteristics of the athlete have led to an exponential growth of the group and an unparalleled achievement of medals and victories.
Getting people of incredible individual quality to come together and get the most out of each other is not easy. Just as we have very good examples, there are also bad examples. This is the case of Real Madrid itself when it signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká and Benzema and did not achieve any objective or when, for example, Fernando Alonso signed for Ferrari and did not improve his marks with respect to Renault. These two examples tell us that it is important to select the people who will be part of a team, since success or defeat often depends on who accompanies us during game time. The characteristics of each athlete are crucial to the formation of a competitive team and therefore it is important that we look for certain characteristics in each athlete.
What athlete characteristics do I look for?
Physical capacity and individual technique
First of all, if I am looking for my team to be competitive and I want to win titles, I must look for people with a great technical quality of the sport. The characteristic of the differential athlete is his individual technique and that is why there are scouts who seek talent. Their main function is to find the visible or hidden talent of each player. To do so, they focus mainly on the physical ability and mastery of the target sport. For example, in a basketball player they analyze the overflow they have, the jump or the success in the shot, while in a team sport such as water polo they look at the quality of the swim, the elevation in the water or the defense of the opponent. Therefore, the first characteristic of the athlete that we must highlight is physical capacity and individual technique.
One thing that stands out in this first impression is that big, burly players tend to stand out more for their physical ability, while short, petite players stand out more for their individual “quality”.
Once the individual talent is known, it is necessary to look at other secondary aspects that can determine the performance of our athlete. Psychology is key within any team, be it basketball, football, handball, etc. We must keep in mind that it is not a good idea for all our athletes to be leaders, cooperative or individualistic; virtue lies in balance. The fight of egos is very common within high performance teams and competitiveness for the same position can cause a break within the group.
Therefore, another of the top characteristics of the athlete is that he knows how to adapt to different work environment. For example, a player who has been in many teams and has left all of them in “bad conditions” shows us that he can be a problematic player. However, if he is a player who has been able to adapt to different coaches, different teammates and different ways of playing, he is an athlete I do want on my team. The second top athlete characteristic would be adaptability.
Perseverance and work
Daily training is another key for an athlete to perform in the best possible way. Therefore, it is vital to find athletes who give the best of themselves in each training session in order to be able to perform at their best on the day of the competition. If we had to select another characteristic of the athlete that can never be missing, it is the performance itself. Elite athletes are people who have managed to reach the position they occupy with great sacrifice and it is important that throughout the competition they continue working for it. There is no point in an athlete who has reached the top and then stopped performing. It is very important that team athletes keep working every day to achieve their best version. The third top athlete characteristic would be perseverance and hard work.
Companionship or teamwork
Earlier we talked about adaptability, but, of course, something primordial in the team athlete is companionship. Belonging to a team is precisely characterized by thinking of the whole and not the individual. If one wins, we all win, if one loses, we all lose. Teamwork is a must for the top athlete. It is useless to have the most skilled person in the world, or the strongest person in the world, if he or she only thinks about his or her individual achievements and does not work to make the entire team win. In addition, camaraderie is not only demonstrated on the court but also off the court. Athletes do not have to be the best friends in the world, but they must be the best teammates or companion. Therefore, the fourth top athlete characteristic should be teamwork or companionship.
Being an elite athlete is not an easy job. Getting up every day with the goal of becoming faster, stronger, more resistant is a complicated task. One value that the best athletes in history have been sacrifice. It is said that Michael Phelps swam 365 days a year, it is said that Cristiano Ronaldo went home for training sessions and cryotherapy to be the best football player and it is said that Serena Williams missed her daughter’s first steps in order to win the Wimbledon tournament again. They all had one thing in common, sacrifice. It is not easy to go to the pool every day, it is not easy to sacrifice a birthday party with friends, it is not easy to say goodbye to your daughter to go 2 weeks to play a tennis tournament. All this is possible thanks to a top athlete characteristic which is sacrifice.
If we can confirm that there is a top quality in an athlete, it is that of sacrifice and all elite athletes have it because they have had to sacrifice certain parts of their lives to be the best. However, many times the stars manage to make a greater sacrifice than the average professional athlete.
Elite athletes and great professionals have the virtue of being the best in their sport. Although within a team we have athletes who are more or less influential in the outcome of the match or event, they are all very good players. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have reached where they are. We could say that they have succeeded and have achieved the dream they had; to dedicate themselves to sports. But that achievement is sometimes a double-edged sword. When you achieve a goal, it’s fair to be proud and happy with what you’ve accomplished, but you shouldn’t be overbearing or arrogant. A top characteristic of an athlete is humility. And we have many examples of this: Rafa Nadal, Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant or Edisson Cavani. All of them have managed to be great athletes, but they are still humble. They stay away from arrogance, cockiness and prominence and that makes them even better athletes. That is why humility is another top athlete characteristic.
Finally, if I had to think of a characteristic that I would like to have in a player or athlete that I am going to sign or that I want to have in my team, without a doubt, I would choose positive influence. I emphasize positive influence because it is also true that you can be a bad influence. An athlete who does not train 100%, who is individualistic, or who is lazy is a bad influence. But, however, if we get all the values that we have previously discussed to belong to a player and, in addition, that player gets other players to imitate him, we would have the best possible characteristics of an athlete. And because of that, he has to have a positive influence on others. He must be a model player that others want to be like. An example of this can be Carles Puyol, a defender of FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team who not only shared all the qualities we have previously mentioned but was also a role model for all his teammates.
To conclude, let’s highlight again the different top characteristics of an athlete for a team:
- Physical capacity and individual technique.
- Perseverance and work.
- Positive influence.
The main characteristic that we should look for is that it makes our team better. It should be noted that, depending on the sport modality, we will have to reinforce those links that we think are not working well in the team. For example, if within my volleyball team it turns out that the right fullback is not working well and, in every game, we lose 80% of the points in that area, we will have to look for an athlete to fill that need.
But if we do a deeper analysis, the characteristics we have mentioned are vital when incorporating an athlete to our team. It is difficult for us to find all in a single person and may lack some of these characteristics. However, we should teach from an early age that all these values and characteristics make an athlete top and therefore we should work on them.
Finally, we will always recommend to look for the combination of all the characteristics to incorporate an athlete to our team. Being clear about the top characteristics of an athlete can help us to obtain a competitive and efficient team in order to win titles and improve.
Unai Adrián Perez de Arrilucea Le Floc’h