Fostering Team Harmony

  • November 15, 2017


One of the most satisfying experiences in sport or any other domain is being a member of a team that gets along well and works as a cohesive, collaborative unit. When you live, work, and play together in harmony, the chances of enjoying the journey and achieving mutually beneficial goals increase significantly. By committing yourself to interact in simple, positive ways that make teammates feel valued, appreciated, respected, and supported, you go a long way toward improving team spirit, harmony, and performance. […]

When Olympic and professional team performance enhancement consultant Cal Botterill studied the link between mood and performance in highly skilled team athletes, he discovered that team harmony was a key factor in performance. Each athlete’s mood had a direct effect on his or her performance, and athletes on the road often cited positive interaction with their coaches, roommates, and teammates as having a positive influence on their mood and performance.

Some of the Olympic and professional teams I have worked with have had more than their fair share of disharmony and interpersonal conflicts. Some team members felt ignored or left out, some athletes believed that the coach did not respect them or believe in them, and some team members withdrew emotionally or physically from the group. […]

The root of many interpersonal conflicts within team contexts is a lack of commitment to the overriding team mission, a lack of awareness of other people’s feelings, or sometimes a misinterpretation of the actions or intentions of a teammate, colleague, or coach.

Merely being together at meetings, work, practices, training camps, games, competitions, or team parties does not necessarily increase mutual liking or performance harmony among team members. For a genuine positive team spirit to develop and grow, individuals must commit to a common mission or goal and be linked in some positive interdependent way so they know that they have to rely on and help one another to have a chance of achieving their individual and collective goals.

Harmony or compatibility sometimes flows or grows naturally among members of a team. When this ideal circumstance is not present, it is important to discuss the commitment required from everyone on the team to put the bigger mission above any conflict or disharmony so that everyone gives his or her best and supports one another to achieve a worthy, higher-level goal. When all team members make a decision to be supportive, remain flexible, be their best, find good qualities in their teammates, and work together to accomplish mutually beneficial goals, collectively they put their team on the path to harmony and excellence.

Open communication is an important step in preventing and solving conflicts or problems among team members. Respecting another person’s needs, feelings, and perspective is difficult when you do not know or understand what they are. It is never too early or too late to move along a more positive path, turn a negative into a positive, transform wrong into a right, or turn an error into a positive lesson. The best time to begin this performance- and the life-enhancing process is right now.

From In Pursuit of Excellence, Fifth Edition by Terry Orlick

Copyright © 2017 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order from Human Kinetics Canada at or by calling 1-800-465-7301.

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Coach Responses

How do you foster and encourage Harmony on your teams or with the athletes you coach?

Share your tips and best practices!

Martin Cavanagh ChPC – Curling – Hawkesbury – 15 years

“…”Everything on the table “ sessions. Once a week, we round table anything and everything that is good, bad or indifferent with any situation, training plan, teammate or coach. Nothing ever gets to the boiling point because everyone knows and understands to “Park it” until the weekly session. This also allows time to self-resolve. We also have the “Red Button” emergency for issues that must be dealt with immediately. Pushing the red button does mean that you must supply Tim’s coffee and Timbits though!”

Jane Elliott – Rowing, Volleyball, Tennis, Baseball – St Catherines – 30+ years

“…It is important to listen and develop an understanding of common goals. There are many paths to achievement both as a team and for athletes and they need to agree on as many common goals as possible, whether they be long term (season ideals) or short term (behaviour and direction of practices). Once there is some agreement on goals, team bonding and respect will assist in reaching those goals, even if the paths are as individual as the players. This serves all player’s strengths, weaknesses and personalities.”

Bert Zonneveld – Soccer – Guelph – 57 years

“…About 2-3 weeks prior to the start of the season, we have a two-day team bonding event, having given lots of notice to both players and parents, where we invite them and their families to a pot luck lunch on Saturday. After lunch, we have a number of fun-filled games where families interact with one another to get to know each other better. Other than two mothers who stay with us male coaches, the parents leave at around 4-5 pm, leaving their daughters with us for more team-oriented games and challenges. The evening ends with a sort of lip -sync dance routine competition in groups of four. Tents have been set up for the sleep-over. On Sunday, after a good breakfast, the parents pick up their kids at around noon.”

Christina Wall – Swimming – Toronto

“…Swimming is both an individual and team sport. Sometimes a teammate may do better individually and it can cause tension and conflict with others on the team. I have found that fostering harmony with the team is created when we do more team activities and volunteer in the community. The more that my athletes feel a part of the same team and are friends; the more encouraging they are of their teammate’s success and become genuinely excited for them when their fellow teammates do well.”

Joe Benedetti – Fastpitch – Hamilton – 30+ years

“One of my mentors, the late Gil Read of Ottawa, always told me the most important thing he did EVERY year was open up his home and host 6, that’s right, 6, pool parties for the team, parents and siblings. He made it clear everyone was welcome, but the team and players had to organize and agree on the dates and times and plan the food and refreshments. He knew the secret was simply to give the players opportunities to spend time with each other in order to get to know and appreciate their teammates and their families. Gil went on to be a leader on our Women’s Olympic Softball team in Athens in 2004. May his soul rest in peace.”

Lillian Mendoza – Basketball – Mississauga – 27 years

“… We have hosted “team bonding” days and nights as well as team homework time. Ironically, the drama between teammates has developed. Since we developed a genuine family-like relationship among coaches, players and parents, we do some fact-finding by first communicating with the parents then have a heart to heart with each individual before placing them in front of each other to “get it out and leave it out”.”

Steve – Volleyball – London – 7 years

“…@ LVC we foster team harmony in as many platforms as possible. We start every year creating our team’s standards and expectations to ensure we are all on the same page. A few weeks in, once we all know each other better, we as a group create some shared team goals that are congruent with individual goals. A few weeks after that we sit down and create a team mission statement that gets turned into bag tags for all of the girls to read when they feel like we are not working together towards our goals. We continue to check in on our goals and mission statement to ensure it stays relevant and appropriate to us. Finally, we try and do monthly team bonding events. These events are run either by coaches or players. Some ideas have included escape rooms, costume bowling, team dinners and other events. We give the athletes the freedom to plan these events too. When the culture of cohesion is fueled by the athletes, it becomes more authentic and holistic than the forced events by coaches.”

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