Building Team Chemistry

  • October 13, 2014

Coach Responses

Success in team sports requires teamwork. A group’s ability to move as one and work for each other. This isn’t always a given.

As a coach, what is your approach to building team chemistry?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach Joe Benedetti – Softball-Fastpitch – Hamilton

“I think I got 55% in Chemistry in Grade 12 many years ago, but I do know you have to know the substances you are dealing with. Team chemistry starts with getting to know your teammates on, but mostly OFF the field. I learned from a mentor, the late Gil Read, that if you want to have a good party at the end of the season, have about 6 parties during the year. Gil would invite the team and parents and families over for pool parties at his home. Simple activities like seeing a less skilled player doing amazing dives and swimming like a dolphin, helps players gain a wider perspective of their teammates.

Coaches can do many things to develop team chemistry, like encouraging carpooling, and so many other “getting to know your teammates” activities. Keep the following objective in mind – Ask yourself the question: “Can I honestly say my athletes are as happy for their teammate’s success as they are their own?” A tough question, but we all know the power of team spirit. Creating lasting friendships is a key goal of any coach, and it starts with team chemistry.”

Coach Henry D – Ice Hockey – Hamilton – 12 Years

“Developing team chemistry on and off the field is very important. Group events such as chain gang runs, scavenger hunts, and Altitude climbing at McMaster University are great ways to develop a positive team culture. Events that physically bind players together force them to work together and trust each other; your team leaders usually surface at these events as well. We have also done a team cooking class to teach nutrition and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Establishing formal team goals and objectives are very important as well as establish the team’s values and set a standard to measure their success and failures. Having the players contribute goes a long way as they’ll have a personal stake in defining what’s important to the team.”

Coach Dallas Price – Rugby – Toronto – 3 Years

“I think a bonding event is good. I ran a ‘fun’ practice last year. I surprised them at a regularly scheduled practice with a scavenger hunt. I made up teams with girls that didn’t really know each other as well. By the end, they all had gotten to interact in many different ways than on the field. It helps them communicate more effectively when they do get back on the field.”

Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 10 Years

“I am a firm believer in team events outside of the court. I often have my players go out to dinners together or if we are away at a tournament having a fun night at a local activity hall (in Toronto Dave and Busters is good, or in London, we go to The Palasad). I want them to do activities that are fun and do not focus on basketball, that allow them to interact and get to know each other in a different way.”

Coach Scott Weldon – Recreation Hockey & Competitive Soccer – Hamilton – 24 Years

“My objectives as a coach are simple:

(A) Everyone sees the field in every game. This approach does not fall under the statement that ‘everyone pays the same so everyone plays the same’. Not the case.

Players come to the sport with different skillsets and different abilities. You can assign a number to each player reflecting their soccer acumen. Too often coaches start their “10’s” in most situations they deem as necessary or critical. If we, as a coach, are looking to develop a roster of players do we not have to acknowledge the ‘6/7’ who is playing at an ‘8/9/10’ level by playing them more. And when the player that is capable of playing at a ‘10’ is playing down to a ‘7’ shouldn’t they play less?

Both players need to understand clearly what is expected of them and what should result in more consistent, better performances from everyone – Exactly the outcome needed to succeed and so desperately sought by coaches.

(B) The corollary to everyone sees the field is that you have addressed the primary wish (most often implied not expressed) of every player: “Make me feel important”. Nothing discredits or devalues a player like taking the long walk back to the car after sitting on the bench for a game, especially after a road game. (As troubling is seeing the player’s struggle to explain a coach’s decision to sit out the game when queried by parents.)

“That’s what happens in competitive soccer” is something that a coach says to anyone within earshot to justify their actions. As if saying it out loud makes the statement true.”

Coach Mike Miller – Soccer  – Milton/Halton – 25+ Years

“In chemistry, there are interactions between atoms and molecules. The molecule that you get is based on the atoms that you have and how they have reacted to form the final product. Team chemistry is similar in that some people have the potential to react well to others while some people can react badly. What you hope to achieve is something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Team Chemistry begins with team selection. If a superstar player, or a player who gets limited playing time, causes adverse reactions for or destabilizes, the team, then the coach has expended energy to deal with it. Guus Hiddink, when assembling the South Korean National soccer team for the 2002 World Cup, chose not to select some of the best players in that nation at that time because of the negative effect they would have on team chemistry. He chose, instead, to go with a group of players who may have had the lesser skill, but could perform together as a team. The result was that they made it to the semi-finals of the tournament.

Once the team is assembled, a great way to promote team chemistry is to actually listen to the team and involve them in as many decisions as you can so that they have ownership and autonomy. In this way, they will feel respected and will respond accordingly.“

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