Yes, there are 50 inches of snow on the ground and sub-artic temperatures. That means one thing… that Spring sports are set to begin in the next few days. Now the first few days/weeks are all spent indoor and as a coach, you’re happy if no one gets hurt. When you have 20 kids in a confined area with objects flying all over, the chances for a bloody nose go up astronomically. Eventually we do make it outdoors and begin to play games in the warm sunshine of 50 degree days. Try to keep that in mind as we shovel out the driveways.
With the beginnings of a new season, coaches are presented with the opportunity to positively influence another group of players. As mentioned in previous posts, I’d highly recommend that coaches get the books by Jeff Janssen on coaching leadership. While you come to Kudda to help you become a more Competent coach, and you read Janssen books to help you develop leaders, there is still one major area that can make or break your season that you do have some influence on and that is Team Chemistry. There has been a lot of debate on Team Chemistry; can it be made or is it dependent on an act of nature? We all know that teams that have that tight chemistry, overachieve and tend to be much more successful than teams that are much more talented. So what can coaches do to help promote Team Chemistry?
Note that are various types of Team Chemistry. In the military, it’s called, “Pain-Retain”. Think back to all of the classic war movies where a group of soldiers go through basic training with the Drill Instructor. (I’m thinking Full Metal Jacket!!) At the end, that group becomes a cohesive unit. (minus Private Pyle) Well, that style probably no longer works in coaching as it may have 30-40 years ago. The successful coaches today are all about “relationship coaching”, creating a family type atmosphere. Here are some of the techniques and strategies that those coaches utilize to help promote and foster team unity and chemistry.
It all starts with the coach clearly communicating their philosophy to the team. As discussed in an earlier post, the philosophy has to be something that the team can control while focused on the journey. Coaches also do a great job of letting their players know that they care about them. It could be the result of lots of sidebar conversations or scheduled weekly meetings. Coach John Wooden hand wrote notes and letters to each of his players.
Coaches are also all about keeping traditions. These traditions help to foster chemistry as players share some common experiences. For the UNC basketball teams under Dean Smith, traditions emerged that are now part of most programs. Simply standing for players as they come off the court or huddling up before free throws help build this sense of tradition.
My thoughts are that while the team chemistry really has to come from within the team, the coach can certainly create the structure and platform to promote this. It takes a conscientious effort on the coach, but when you realize the return on this additional investment in your team, it’s well worth taking time to help foster.