Coaches at all levels are always looking for new and innovative ways to incorporate various sport psychology team building tips to help foster better team climate, cohesion, and ultimately better team success. Of course, when dealing with people (even youth level athletes) there isn’t any “one proven formula” to refer to in order to accomplish better team harmony and success, but there are 5 key concepts every coach should know:
1. Pay attention to team dynamics. While it is true that having talented players on a team usually helps with winning, we have seen time and time again in sports that just having talent doesn’t always equate to success (check out the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA this season for a modern day example). Team dynamics refer to the interpersonal relationships between players, including role understanding, acceptance, and commitment. Delving deeper, this means that players know and respect one another, as well as know their own role (and embrace it).
2. Understand the importance of team leaders. Whether you have team members vote for captains or you and the coaching staff take on this task, it is important to develop leaders by helping them understand exactly what it means to “lead.” Strong team leaders are effective communicators, motivators, and set the climate for the team. Unfortunately, these skills don’t usually just happen by chance, making it important for coaches to work with team leaders so they know how to take on being a successful leader.
3. Be careful with team cohesion. Team cohesion is an interesting concept — it basically means the level of connectedness amongst team members. At first glance you might think that having everybody always get along 100% is the most perfect state, but that’s not necessarily true. This does not mean you want to see your players fight amongst themselves (nor does it mean you should prompt this to happen), but it does mean that confrontation and conflict can (and often does) lead to better long-term trust, as well as the uncovering of team problems. When teams get too close and comfy, it becomes very difficult for players to call out problems and become stronger as a team as a result.
4. Be open to team chemistry. Team chemistry, or the mixture of players that seem to click the best, isn’t always a product of simply having an all-star at every position. Sometimes it takes the right mix of talented players with other “role players,” or players who are more about getting the dirty work done and less about the spotlight. Savvy coaches look for just the right combination in accomplishing this task, and also realize that it is this perfect balance that often leads to long-term team success.
5. Be 2 steps ahead when it comes to failure. All teams face stress, adversity, frustration, and failure — and good coaches know this and are already 2 steps ahead with plans in place to galvanize resiliency and increase motivation after tough times hit. What is your plan if/when your team is hit with illness, injury, academic problems, or just a tough stretch in the schedule? What ideas do you have to help the team immediately turn around in a positive direction rather than wallowing in self-pity? The answers to these questions might well be the keys to your season!