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There is much more to becoming a championship team than the skill level of each player. A vital component of becoming a high performing team is strong team chemistry. Team chemistry if often referred to as the magic ingredient after a sports team wins a championship The amount of communication, togetherness, and mutual respect is crucial for the road to success.

While winning a championship ring is an irreplaceable experience, the most vivid memories and JHU!feelings that stay with a team are the special relationships that are developed throughout the entire season. 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, the challenges they faced together, the successes they shared, and the tears they shed together.  I have found from both professional and personal experience that the more cohesive a team is, the more your players will reach peak performances. Team cohesion will help your team rise to greater levels of performance 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 chemistry

  1. Get everyone on the team on the same page (Set team goals/Team mission). Everyone striving towards a common goal is essential for strong team chemistry. Teammates should be aware of each other’s individual goals so that they can support each other in achieving them. High performing teams that I have worked with created Team Mission Statements and Team Themes. A team mission statement is a way to transform team dreams into goals. Once the mission statement 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 there. 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.
  2. Positive 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. Coaches should also 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 verbally sending someone a message. The skill of listening is vital to the communication process. Listening shows that you care about what your teammates are saying which is important in building team cohesion and trust between teammates.
  3. 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. Some roles that players may assume: Team Leader (vocal leaders, leadership by example), Team Counselors-these players help struggling players and often mediate during times of dissention. Social Leaders- these are the athletes who are always planning ways to get together outside of field hockey. Team Motivators- these are highly spirited players who can get the team up for a game or practice. Team Clowns- these players have a great sense of humor and frequently provide some comic relief to help make practice and competitions more fun.
  4. Create Team Distinctiveness. You want your team to feel like it’s a privilege to be one of its members. Creating special team bulletin boards, team t-shirts, team slogans/themes will help each player feel unique, which will promote unity. It’s amazing how a team can have a sense of pride from a t-shirt that has a team slogan written on it. One team that I worked with had a theme of “Hold the Rope.” Hold the Rope was a 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.
  5. 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, and planned team social events.
  6. 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.
  7. Circle of Confidence/Got Your Back. Have your players sit in a circle. Give each of your players a sheet of paper or a large index card. Each player writes her name on the paper and under her name she writes down the word “Strengths” or the “Reasons that I have to believe in myself”. Each player’s paper is passed around the circle so each player receives strength from her teammate. The strength that is written must something related to the team. When your team completes the list, have each player verbalize at least 5-6 strengths using “I am statements.” Variation: For Got Your Back place the sheet of paper on the players back.

Keith Waldman Bio: For over 15 years Mr. Keith Waldman has been a partner with Optimal Performance Associates, LLC. Keith has been actively involved in a wide variety of athletic programs, K-12 schools, and corporations focusing on teambuilding, leadership, and athletic excellence. He has conducted hundreds of workshops for Division I-III sport teams and high athletic departments across the nation, including State, Conference, and National Championship Teams. He has conducted team building, leadership, & mental toughness workshops for hundreds of high school and college teams. His passion and commitment as well as his educational and professional experience have enabled Keith to make a tremendous impact on many athletic, educational, and corporate teams. To get more information about our team building, leadership, and mental toughness workshops you can visit the OPA website at www.opawinningteams.com or you can email Keith Waldman at keith@opawinningteams.com.


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