Teams are a collection of individuals who bring different ideas, personalities, and needs together to play a sport they love. Your team may be one that has some strong personalities, some obvious leaders, and some players bursting with creativity. How do you get an eclectic mix of players to unify for one purpose?
1) Ensure players know their strengths and weaknesses, and that nobody is perfect. Most players are aware of their strengths, but not their weaknesses. This gives an opportunity for you to help them develop their skills, but also for other players to come along and help. Players that are constantly learning from one another naturally gel and team chemistry is enhanced. Players that know their role and the role of others on the team have a better chance to succeed. In 1989, the Detroit Pistons became the first NBA team to win the championship despite not having one player averaging more than 20 points a game. Each player knew their role and played selfless for the betterment of the team.
2) Be a cultivator of positivity for your team. Correcting mistakes is a must, but doing so in the right way can make positive impacts on your team. Being positive is contagious. Players can be affected negatively or positively based solely on their coach’s attitude. If your team is making mistakes, be sensitive as you explain them to the team and help correct them. Encourage them by showing them you believe in their ability to work hard and improve. Strong team chemistry starts from the top.
3) Players must seek out what’s best for the team, not just themselves. Just like knowing their strengths and weaknesses, players should know what their role on the team is, along with the roles of their teammates. Sometimes this involves a player sacrificing their individual success for that of another teammate. Last year, the Golden State Warriors were playing the Chicago Bulls. Draymond Green, who had turned into a starter for the Warriors passed up an opportunity at a wide open three point shot to pass to teammate Marreese Speights for a shot. When Green was asked later why he passed up the open shot, he said he knew the team would have a better chance to succeed if Speights really got going, so he wanted him to take the shot instead. This is a fantastic example of a player who knew what it would take for his team to do well, even if it meant not getting as many points as he might would get.
4) Do things as a team off of the court. This could be going out to eat as a team, bowling together, or taking part in service projects. This not only allows players to get to know each other better, but gives you as their coach a chance to get to know them on a more personal level. Developing a personal relationship with your players gives you a chance to see them beyond the basketball court, and help develop them in other areas of the 360 Progression.
5) Treat all players equally, regardless of talent. This doesn’t mean everyone gets equal playing time. What this does mean is everyone is held to the same standard. If there is a consequence for being late to practice, that punishment should be the same for every player regardless of skill level. Your players will respect you more and feel more unified knowing their coach views them as equals.
6) Encourage your players to serve. This can take shape in many different forms. Perhaps players go to a local elementary school and read to kids. Maybe they help teach a weekend camp. Maybe they simply help mow a neighbor’s lawn. When young athletes participate in a culture of service, they grow in compassion and naturally become better teammates. Encourage the players to share their serving experiences with one another.