There is no “I” in “team”, but every team will consist of different people contributing different amounts. Balancing a team’s personality comes down to how you manage your people, no matter how much they give to the end goal. Every team will have its own personality and most efficient means of accomplishing its goals or playing its best, so navigating that and designating how to handle relationships with all of the players can be difficult. So while it’s important to remember that everyone on the team is there to work toward a unified goal, sometimes it’s crucial to pay mind to or even recognize those players who may be contributing a bit more than the others. Here are some ways to look out for signs of a key contributor and recognize them in a way that propels the others on the team forward.

Identifying the Talent

While your team is working together to win and perform as best as possible, navigating your relationship with each team member will prove to be more important than actual team performance in some ways. Your players will look to you for gratification for their work or achievements, and it’s important to recognize those achievements in little ways while the team is working together. Letting certain teammates run small exercises or drills during practices can be an effective way to reward those performing more productively -- providing them with a sense of authority and a taste of leadership can give them a reason to feel more invested in the end result and their own progress. Other teammates can see this and aspire to be able to earn the same feeling and thus push themselves harder in the process. Small gestures like these can spark a cycle of positive reinforcement and improvement from the ground up.

Figuring out who your star talents are can be as obvious as it can be difficult. Every team operates differently within themselves, with varying levels of maturity and cohesiveness. Some players that put in the work during drills or off the field can sometimes need as much attention as the ones who seem to have a natural talent or gift. The end goal should be manifesting the idea of gratification for strong work ethic and focus. That can mean giving more playing time to the players clearly putting in the effort as much as it means sitting those that can choose to try and let their talent speak.

Coaching the Stars

When certain players are excelling in particular, it can be equally as impactful to find a way to recognize that. Star players, people who are contributing an exceptional amount to the end goal or result of the team, have to be made aware of their talent while simultaneously acknowledging how much they have left to learn. Taking the time to show those kinds of players what it can take to reach the next level can open their eyes to what they can achieve; things like attending a professional game and watching older seasoned players go about their routines can have an actual impact on young stars in the making. At very least, it can be an opportunity for the whole team to witness their process on a big stage and show them the meaning behind what they work on regularly.

That said, experts agree that a coach’s focus should remain on ensuring that the experience is a positive one for all involved. Today’s youth turn to their free time for their respite, so if they choose to use it in a sport or on a team, having fun is imperative to make sure they feel as if they’re getting what they wanted.

“When a child walks out on a field or court for the first time, the coach is the person introducing them to that sport,” says Sue Hunt, project director for The Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society program. “Each day, find something good that every kid on the team did, not just the best athletes. If you line them up and give them drills from day one, that’s not going to be a fun experience.”

Rewarding good performance and strong work ethic will teach the players how they can be rewarded for teamwork, good sportsmanship, and responsibility. Field trips, get togethers, and other team activities outside of practice that are fun and informative can be a great way to enrich the players for doing well.

Ultimately, how you choose to coach your team can define the experience much differently from one player to the next. Being aware of your power to impact them as the authority figure in their chosen activity is the first step in properly coaching each individual player through their own journey to success. Have fun, and remember what it’s all about the whole way and everyone will grow.