Have you ever felt it – that special connection to someone or something that can only be described as chemistry? It’s quite powerful; and although difficult to define, you know it when you experience it or see it in action.
As a coach, you play a critical role in developing a team with that kind of compelling chemistry. Three C’s: clarity, cohesion, and communication are the backbone of that chemistry.
If I told you that we were going on a trip across the country, you might have a few questions. Your first thought would be, “where are we going?” as in, what’s the end goal? Secondly, you would probably wonder “why?” What is the value in traveling there? Finally, you would surely want to know what is expected of you on this trip. What is your role or the attitude you should have regarding it?
It would be ideal if there was clarity on these issues before departing.
Coaches are responsible for addressing these same kinds of unspoken questions regarding the direction of the team. In the process of clearly defining each of these – values, attitudes, and goals – the culture for the team is created.
Think About It: Share with the team the answers to questions such as these.
- Values: How are individuals on this team expected to behave? Is the success of the team most important, or is it more the achievements of individuals?
- Attitudes: How are positive attitudes and good work ethics acknowledged and rewarded?
- Goals: Is strong competition, or just having fun the number one priority? What are the performance goals for the season?
When there is clarity and everyone understands and subscribes to the culture, chemistry is cultivated.
A rowing team powerfully slicing through the water is an unmistakable picture of cohesion. The individual efforts of each rower are only considered successful inasmuch as they work together as one unit.
Cohesiveness refers to the tendency of a group to stick together to perform a task. This bond is based on trust.
As a coach, you set the tone for this to happen. Purposefully address any issues of mistrust between team members and strive to avoid drama that threatens to tear apart a team.
Try This: Once a week, spend time building relationships. Help team members to see the qualities that go beyond the field or court. For example, ask each athlete to bring a picture of a family member or friend that has impacted them in a positive way. Give them each a chance to share. End with a discussion on how they can also positively impact each other, by being trustworthy team members.
The cohesive glue that binds a team together will enable them to successfully face the ups and downs that come in a typical season.
A one-way street is very limited in its possibilities. If you were trying to get the best use from a strip of land it would make sense that traffic could go both ways on it.
Communication is similar. Ideally, it should be two-ways. Coaches help to foster team chemistry when there is a safe place to have open and honest conversation between all team members.
It is important to realize that not everyone has the same level of skill in communicating feelings, fears, and expectations. However, it can be learned and setting a consistent example is the best place for this to happen.
Practice by sharing: Regularly encourage athletes to practice open and honest conversation with each other and with the coaches. Insist on respectfulness being the filter through which everything needs to pass. Invite quieter athletes to have one-on-ones to make sure their voice is being heard.
Team chemistry does not have to be elusive – and as the coach, you play a large part in creating it. Take these steps and set the stage for your team’s success.
- Strive for clarity in regards to the team’s values, attitudes, and goals.
- Build cohesive relationships by developing trust.
- Teach healthy and effective two-way communication by providing a safe place for it.