Characteristics of a Successful Sports Team
The most successful sports teams have great leadership and chemistry. All three of these characteristics are integral for a cohesive and competitive sports team.
Coaches can recruit natural talent and strength all they want, but the most important components of any successful team stems from the whole being more than the sum of its parts.
But what does that really mean?
This means that if we look at sports performance through a system-based approach, an outcome is created that would have never occurred from relying on individual elements.
After all, a diamond cannot be naturally formed unless individual carbon atoms bond together in specific crystalized patterns. So too a successful sports team forms by bonding common elements together in specific ways.
To achieve the emergence of an elite group of individuals all set on creating a lasting impact in their athletic lane requires two things: chemistry and great leadership.
(#1) The Importance of Chemistry
A superstar on a sports team can be a game-changer/difference maker/shake-n-baker; but only to a certain degree and not with 100% consistency. Not a lot of teams can rely on natural talent alone to drive them to victory.
And doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose and fun of a team anyway?
To speak to this, Nature published findings on team chemistry that the so-called ‘superstar effect’ of loading teams with the most talent actually pales in comparison to teams with the most chemistry and history of prior success together.
Examples of Chemistry in Basketball
Yes, “super teams” in the NBA are strong examples of championship teams through the cultivation of raw talent. But not coincidentally, the Golden State Warriors started to falter earlier in the 2018-2019 season because of an internal conflict between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
This means that when looked at over the long term, the most sustainable teams have the most chemistry over mere talent. The Warriors, although they had a lot of drama during the regular season, banded back together and sorted out their differences. They all have too good of a relationship as teammates to let petty differences derail their season.
So, those who stick together, have the most history with one another, and can build the deepest bond together, tend to fare better than professional teams with larger payrolls and more stars.
Examples of Chemistry in Hockey
In addition, consider the Saint Louis Blues: a NHL hockey team that made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 49 years, and who has recently won the whole thing During this historical season, they were dead last in the entire NHL on January 3rd, but have stormed back and played some of the League’s best hockey since then.
And guess what, when they were playing their worst hockey, teammates were fighting each other and team morale was not exactly in a positive place. But they rallied around a new coach, bought into his vision, and they started to play for one another. With that, the proper chemistry and cohesion was built.
So yes, a team comprised of level-headed, cohesive, committed individuals with great chemistry can elevate a middle-of-the-road team into a vastly successful vehicle for athleticism and success.
Now, you can’t force chemistry; you cannot guarantee that your team will mesh well. But you can you increase likelihood by emphasizing a common vision and goals.
If we apply this concept to the business world, a lot of departments and teams will spin their wheels without a vision to unite them. Even if you don’t have the most compatible team members at first, a common goal or vision can help you cultivate team chemistry.
Consider that the best teams are good friends; they hang out off the field and away from team practices. And the best teams in the business world are in touch after-hours, on lunch break, events, etc.
But a lot of this chemistry and communication boils down to the type of leadership at the helm of the group. The right leader will encourage the necessary interdependency that creates positive chemistry.
Let’s explore the impact that leadership can have on successful sports teams.
(#2) Great Leadership
A successful sports team will often have a strong coach. A groundbreaking business will have a strong leader. And just about any organization worth its salt will have someone of charisma at the helm.
A great coach will rally the troops around a powerful narrative--they will absorb adversity and reframe it as fuel for a resurgence.
The most successful leaders are not afraid to fail. Really, any successful sports coach will tell you that composure is key in the midst of the emotional highs and lows of a season.
To achieve this, a coach will create a narrative or philosophy that is flexible and powerful enough to last a long time. It is a story that is absorbed by teammates and which can fuel the forward progress of the group despite any challenges that arise.
This tool, combined with good drills and practices, can strengthen a team unlike any other facet of leadership.
Creating Resilience Through a Strong Vision
Say that your team has all the chemistry and skill in the world. They are disciplined, show up to practice every day, train, workout, and band together the majority of the time.
What happens when they face adversity as a group? Or key players get injured? Or God forbid a chain of bad luck threatens to derail the efforts of a hard-fought season?
Without a strong vision and narrative to rally around, a team might not have the resilience to fight back and turn their season around.
Resilience in this context is simply the ability for a team to adapt, rebound, and consistently stick to a game plan no matter how negative the circumstances of a season.
Some of the most prominent ways for coaches to increase resilience in their teams are through the following methods:
- Preaching the importance of pushing on despite failure. A lot of the best teams channel the emotions they feel during a loss as fuel for the next game or match. A coach will show players how to do this as a group.
- Sticking to the game plan. This is probably the most important part of a coach’s job. If teammates are not constantly reminded to stick to a game plan or the proper course of action, the whole season can be lost. It’s up to the coaches to craft the best plan for the team and get the team to believe in it 100%.
- Encouraging accountability practice. A good leader makes sure that all team members know how to take ownership and accountability whenever necessary.
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