Posts Tagged ‘team’

As I wrapped up individual meetings in the fall I started to notice a trend; team chemistry was a highlight of the year for most of our players.

This past season was disappointing from a results point of view, we finished on a high note with our last five regular season games, but we didn’t hit the goals we had set coming into 2012.  So I was a little surprised when a majority of the freshmen stated that this was one of their favorite seasons to date in their careers, and a majority of the returners felt better about team chemistry compared to last year.  I would have to agree with them, 2011 was a fantastic year in the record books for Tiger soccer, but team chemistry was not where we wanted it and the result was a mass exodus of the freshmen class.

So it leaves us begging the question how important is team chemistry to on-field success?  In 2011 the team had several problems with team chemistry on and off the field.  The new student-athletes didn’t feel they were welcomed and the upperclassmen didn’t feel like the new additions were good for the team.  However, in 2011 we were very successful on the field and our success translated to several program records being broken.

Coaches always talk about how important team chemistry is to athletic success.  But the results of the past two seasons have started to bring this philosophy into question for me.  My coaching philosophy has always been built around the importance of team chemistry.  Our team culture tries to emulate a family atmosphere, where opinions of teammates are valued and we look out for each other on and off the field.  Team unity and developing a family environment have been a corner stone of every program I’ve had the privilege of coaching.

Ultimately, talent wins games, but attitude can be the difference maker (to quote Jon Maxwell).  All things being equal, if the team in 2011 had been able to get along better we might have had even more success and been able to achieve even more.  If the team in 2012 could of had more talent or been in better form we might have over achieved.

Not ready to throw out the cornerstone of every program I’ve run, but there are lessons to learn from the past two years.  Ultimately though my coaching philosophy revolves around developing an experience for the student-athletes that helps them to grow as men and women, and the focus is more on them than the results.  I want to be successful and win games as much as the next guy, but in the end it’s the relationships that our students have developed and their memories that will be the legacy of the program.

In my morning reading I came across this.  The author is unknown, but I’ve adapted it for my athletes from Petersen’s book “For Men Only,” pg 132.

[The Teammate]

A [Teammate] respects those who are superior to him and tries to learn something from them; a [Pretender] resents those who are superior and rationalizes their achievements.

A [Teammate] explains; a [Pretender] explains away.

A [Teammate] says, “Let’s find a way”; a [Pretender] says, “There is no way.”

A [Teammate] goes through a problem; a [Pretender] tries to go around it.

A [Teammate] says, “There should be a better way to do it”; a [Pretender] says, “That’s the way it’s always been done here.”

A [Teammate] shows he’s sorry by making up for it; a [Pretender] says, “I’m sorry,” but does the same thing next time.

A [Teammate] knows what to fight for and what to compromise on; a [Pretender] compromises on what he shouldn’t, and fights for what isn’t worth fighting about.

A [Teammate] works harder than a [pretender], and has more time; a [Pretender] is always “too busy” to do what is necessary.

A [Teammate] is not afraid of losing and will take measured risk to win; a [Pretender] is secretly afraid of losing and will stay away from any risk.

A [Teammate] makes commitments; a [Pretender] makes promises.

Playoffs

Posted: November 1, 2012 in Psychology, Team Management
Tags: , ,

Well, this is what the season is all about. Qualify for the playoffs and then test yourself against the best. It’s been somewhat of a disappointing season, but we managed to secure our spot in the post season by going 3-1-1 in our last five matches of the regular season against some very tough competition. Now we travel to the top seed to play the first round at their place and test ourselves against the #25 team in the country.

It’s amazing how quickly the mood on a team can change in the span of a season. Coming into 2012 we were really excited about the possibilities. Within a month we were throwing everything out ready to start from scratch. a few weeks later we went back to the tested ways and started to climb out of the basement a little. Now we’ve had a small taste of success and we are ready to take on the world. Sports are crazy, but it wouldn’t be any fun any other way.

This is why we do this, and this is why we invest our time and energy into something that is so simple and means very little in the big picture. But hopefully we are doing a good job to use this fun, and sometimes frustrating, game to teach these young men lessons that will apply to their lives down the road in a more important way.

The season isn’t done yet, but I know that one of the things that will stick out about 2012 for me is how the team came together like a family and never gave up on the year. There were times that we didn’t like each other very much, but they kept fighting for one another and for the team. It was really fun to watch them come together so quickly and take ownership for one another.

Tonight is the test, but the journey has been a good one overall.

One of my players suggested this book to me and I’m glad he did.  I’ve read Ken Blanchard’s “One Minute Manager” and was very impressed with his writing, and this book was just as good.  Co-authored with Sheldon Bowles, the book is a parable of a corporate worker who gets fired for not being a team player.  In his spare time he takes up coaching his son’s fifth grade hockey team, and the lessons he learns about teamwork in the process.

There were four main principles they listed to developing a “High Five” team spelled out the acronym P.U.C.K. 

  1. Providing clear purpose and shared values.  An over-arching team goal or purpose that everyone buys into has to be established before anything else.  What is the “holy grail” that will challenge and motivate people to work together?  Make sure there is a clear goal and strategy to achieve the goal.  Once the team goal or purpose has been established then the individual goals and strategies need to be developed so each person knows how they can help the team achieve success.  The shared values by a group helps to define the group and build shared team culture.  The team purpose needs to be prominent for the group so they are reminded of where they are going (ie. the hockey team chanted their team purpose before every practice and every game).
  2. Unleashing and developing skills.  The fundamentals needed to be successful have to become a priority.  Without quality individual skills the team is useless.  Each member of the team needs to have a solid working level of the skills it’s going to take to be successful in achieving the team purpose or goal.  These skills need to be trained and developed until each has a working mastery of them.  Feedback should be provided that is positive and builds confidence and accountability in each person.
  3. Creating team power.  “None of us is as good as all of us.”  The term they liked to use in the book was “synergistic harmony.”  There must be a game plan that will help a team to be successful when each person plays their part.  Establish a system of rewarding teamwork and making it more important than individual achievement.  The individuals in the team have to understand the power and potential of what can be accomplished when they work together rather than working at the same time.
  4. Keeping the accent on the positive.  The final step is to repeatedly reward and recognize the team when they are living out the first three steps.  This will help build a culture in your team and keeps the cycle moving.  For each step there needs to be repeated rewards and recognition so the team develops a habit of each one.  This principle becomes the lasting piece that will help your team sustain success rather than going through highs and lows of working together as a team.  The idea is to catch people doing the right things, and reward them or recognize them in those moments.  Don’t punish negative behavior, but redirect the individuals towards their goals and the team purpose.  All of the recognition and rewards should be linked to the team purpose and goals.

The book was written for corporate management and team building, but the principles are the same for soccer teams.  I really enjoyed this book, and I’m glad to see a university professor that makes his college students read books like this one.  There is a lot of value to be reaped from this book and I would recommend it to anyone who works in a team environment.

The fact that it is written in a parable format made the reading enjoyable and easy, but I would recommend spending some time and picking out the principles and digesting them a little.  It’s easy to see how the four principles above can be applied to a soccer team, but the work comes with implementation. 

Most coaches will enjoy this book because it doesn’t try to rewrite anything or give us a magic formula.  The principles in the book are all familiar, and sometimes we just need a reminder.  But the four principles are logically laid out and I like how the authors show the progression; needing a team purpose before we can develop the skills to be successful individuals and help the team to that goal, etc.  I think this will be a book that I will have to add to my collection and use as a resource for my coaching staff.