We all strive to have team chemistry with our groups of athletes and what chemistry really comes down to in many ways is how tight a community you as a coach can create within your team. Chemistry in a team setting means cohesion. Teams tend not to perform well when they don’t actually like each other very much as people and often that dislike comes from not knowing each other well. Tight communities create the individual player’s confidence. Athletes need to know that they are in a safe place with respect to their teammates. They need to have that reassurance that if they make a mistake it will be OK.
One of the biggest factors in team cohesion is selflessness. Being able to leave your ego at the door as a player is a crucial step towards being a good teammate. It’s all about “us” and “we”, not about “I” and “me”. This is sometimes hard for athletes of any age to truly grasp and embrace but it would be safe to say that all championship teams tend to be made up of selfless players.
Jon Gordon, author of the bestselling book The Energy Bus, wrote his “11 Thoughts about Teamwork”. Here they are:
1) Teams rise and fall on culture, leadership, relationships, attitude and effort.
2) It’s all about teamwork. Sometimes you are the star and sometimes you help the star.
3) If you want to be truly great you have to work as hard to be a great teammate as you do to be a great player.
4) Your team doesn’t care if you are a superstar. They care if you are a super team member.
5) Three things you control every day are your attitude, your effort and your actions to be a great teammate.
6) One person can’t make a team but one person can break a team. Stay positive!
7) Great team members hold each other accountable to the high standards and excellence their culture expects and demands.
8) Team beats talent when talent isn’t a team.
9) Great teams care more. They care more about their effort, their work and their team members.
10) We > me
11) You and your team face a fork in the road each day. You can settle for average and choose a path of mediocrity or you can take the road less travelled and chase greatness.
I want to highlight one word that Gordon uses in #7. The word is “accountable”. Holding players accountable to high standards is crucial to team chemistry, cohesion and selflessness. And, it’s important to hold all players to the same standard of accountability. Coaches absolutely can’t treat star players differently than non-star players on this.
Jon Gordon sums up the “Team Player” well in his book The Energy Bus: “A person who’s On the Bus when it’s rolling and Off the Bus to help push when it breaks down.”
I worry a lot about today’s young athletes - as many do. One of my biggest concerns is the “what’s in it for me” attitude of so many players - and often it’s an extension of parental attitudes. I love the expression “the name on the front of the jersey is way more important than the name on the back”. Rarely do I hear athletes talk about what team they really want to play on. More often, it’s what team is best for “me”. My understanding of the minor hockey landscape in Toronto is that rarely do players play for one team for more than a year or two. I know that I am old school (or maybe just plain old!) but I played almost my entire minor hockey career with one organization in Toronto, all 17 years of baseball with Leaside, seven years at my middle and high school, and all four years at one university. AND, it was all I hoped for athletically to make those teams each year. Creating good team chemistry will go a long way to keeping teams together for extended periods. Good team chemistry also teaches lifelong lessons in team work, co-operation and working with others towards a common goal.
Pure and simple, championship teams tend to have good team chemistry, both on and off the ice. Coaches need to talk to their athletes about what good chemistry is, how to support teammates and how to put “we” before “me”.
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