There is much more to becoming a championship team than the skill level of each player. The amount of communication, working together, and mutual respect is crucial in becoming a high performing sports team. A vital component of winning the mental and team game is the cohesiveness of your team. While winning a championship ring is awesome, the most vivid memories and feelings that stay with a team are the special relationships that are developed throughout the season. The challenges they faced together, the successes they shared, and the tears they shed. When it’s all said and done your players will look back not just on the number of wins or titles but the relationships they formed with teammates and coaches. I have found from both professional and personal experience the more cohesive a team is, the more your players will reach peak performances. Team cohesion will help your team rise to greater levels because they will be playing not just for themselves but for each other. I have found that teams, who have a high level of trust and support within the team, will feel safe enough to take risks on the field and as a result they will play to win rather than worrying about making mistakes on the field.
Here are some tips on enhancing team cohesion:
- Get everyone on the team on the same page (Set team goals/Team mission). When everyone is striving towards a common goal this will help team cohesion develop. Goals must be challenging, specific, realistic, and focus on the process. Teammates should be aware of each other’s individual goals so they can support each other in achieving them. Teams that I have worked with who have performed on a high level have created Team Mission Statements and Team Themes. Once the mission statement/theme is created, the team should post it on the locker room wall as a daily reminder of where they want to go and how they are going to get their. Also, at the end of the year you can create the Mission Statement Award. The player who most represented the team mission receives this award at the end of the season.
- Facilitate open, honest, and respectful communication. A highly cohesive team will create a safe atmosphere where each player can talk openly and honestly with one another and among coaches. Coaches should keep an open door policy when communicating with their athletes as well as check in with your athletes to see how they are doing and feeling. One thing to remember about communication is communication is more than just sending someone a message. The skill of listening is vital to the communication process. Listening shows that you care about what your teammates and team members are saying and this is important in building team cohesion and trust between teammates.
- Well Defined and Appreciation of Roles. High performing teams have players who are willing and take pride in doing the tough and underappreciated jobs. Successful teams take the time to appreciate the role players on the team. Each member of the team should feel they are part of the team and that they contribute something important.
- Create Team Distinctiveness. You want your team to feel like it’s a privilege to be a member of the team. Creating special team bulletin boards, team t-shirts, team slogans/themes will help each player feel unique and this will promote unity. It’s amazing how a team can have a sense of pride from a t-shirt that has team slogan written on it. One field hockey team that I worked with had a theme of “Hold the Rope.” Hold the Rope was special story written on what it takes between teammates to win a championship. This team thrived on this theme and went on to win a national championship.
- Team Activities. Having a preseason retreat is a good way to help your team bond for the upcoming season. Many teams bring in a team building/sport psychology consultant such as myself to facilitate this experience. Many teams that I have worked with have utilized ropes courses, had many team dinners, went on team hikes, as well as planning other team social events.
- Create the Wall of Confidence. This is a combination of ideas that I have learned from coaches and team building consultants. This is a great way to build appreciation and confidence within your team. Each player on your team has a secret psych pal (secret spy). Each player is responsible to write down something positive they did in practice or in a game that contributed to the overall success of the team. These notes are placed on the team bulletin board for each player to review. This can be done throughout an entire season
Any questions or comments about this article contact Keith Waldman at Keith@opawinningteams.com or (856) 988-2939. To get more information about team building, leadership, and mental toughness workshops you can visit our company website at www.opawinningteams.com.
To learn more about how Optimal Performance Associates can support your team building needs, feel free to email or call us at 1-888-868-3380. We will be happy to answer your questions and to schedule a meeting or phone conference to discuss how we can address your company's specific team building needs.