How do we build effective collaboration in sports? How do we create strong teams?
Sports by its very nature is competitive. You are competing to win. So how you do bring collaboration/ teamwork into this? In both Teamwork and collaboration – you are working together to achieve an objective that you cannot achieve on your own. So how you do bring collaboration/ teamwork into this? In both Teamwork and collaboration – you are working together to achieve an objective that you cannot achieve on your own.
There is a subtle difference between teamwork and collaboration. To us, especially within a sports culture we think of Collaboration as a coming together to achieve a specific objective in a more efficient way. You can come from different mind-sets and spaces – but agree to work together to reach that goal by sharing resources, skills set etc.
Whereas teamwork is something more ingrained, something where a common vision/culture/ ethos is involved. And where everyone has to be included equally and contribute equally.
You can have two artists and two organizations collaborate, you can have teams within an organization collaborate, but within a team, in addition to “collaborating” to meet the objectives, we have to build the culture of working together, contributing together equally to achieve the same objectives with the same mindset.
So, what does this mean in sports – for us to get everyone to work as a team:
It means everyone acknowledges understands what being in a team means..
It means facing losses together. It means sharing credit for wins.
It means find solutions together
It means that we recognize that we have individual strengths and individual weaknesses.
It also means that we embrace the power of compounding – that a collective of individual strengths is a whole lot more than the sum of it.
The power of compounding applies equally to weaknesses – so we must recognize that individual weaknesses need to be collectively improved upon or compensated for.
So how do you build team spirit. How do you get children of different abilities and skills to work together in a positive way?
And it’s not just ages and skills, it is also different socio-economic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds. And in sport – different aspirations not just for the player, but also for their parent. Some ways we do this at Great Goals:
Information, and setting expectations: Ensure everyone has the same information, they understand it and follow it.
Build Capacity and Build In Constant Review – We can teach a technique or a skill, but we build capacity when players learn to connect what they do how it achieves objectives and expectations. That they follow it by repetition and repeated patterns e.g connect something they are doing on field with something that happened at the World Cup.
Role Model – and this is so important when working with children. All of us model need to the behaviours we want to see – be in full kit, be on time, be respectful, be accountable. You give respect to players; you earn their respect by what you do. Being a coach doesn’t entitle you to respect that you don’t deserve. We must create that environment. Set boundaries. We have a thing at Great Goals which is ‘be kind, be firm’. ‘Teach them to play tough, not rough’. Be honest. And Fun.
Encourage Players To Take Collective Responsibility – All Rewards and consequences must be given together. When a few players from our U15 team got in trouble for bad behaviour, the entire team was docked a match and made to run around the field together.
Joint Experiences – Joint Meals. Travel. These are powerful team building tools – and we see them in action when o play “away” games. Yes there is bullying, there will be fights, they won’t eat. But the experience, the memories are just immense, things they carry for life.
Build A Rapport – there must be team building games. We play in competitive leagues, so for our 13- and 15-year-olds we hold trials and put teams together. Now this is a classic example of collaboration vs. teamwork. The first year, we did this, they played a match and we saw a miserable performance in the first half. We realized suddenly that the players did not know each other’s names. The half time activity was to have players introduce themselves. The second half was much improved. I think it’s a very simple but powerful example of the importance of rapport in a team environment.
Build Respect – We have to model this – by asking players to cheer and encourage each other, by acknowledging and praising consistence and certain actions. The coach has to model this intentionally. In a game like football, the glory is usually to the goal scorer. But who assisted, who enabled the assist, who prevented the ball from going into their own goal – all the roles are important, so from a young age you need to build that 360 view.
Build Trust – We must help our players learn and recognize their own and each other’s their strengths – and it’s easy to learn this on a field quickly. The role of the coach is to combine strengths, so they compound. It’s not 1+ 2 + 3 + 4 but actually becomes 1*2*3*4...
Build a Safe Space – To build and keep trust we have to ensure that everyone knows that their feelings are valid and can be expressed. And after that we can work through process.
We can talk about individual strengths, we can talk about everyone’s value and contribution to the system – with youth players we have to constantly reinforce the 360 nature of this. We need to engage them in this – ask for suggestions and feedback. We have to create a culture of giving and accepting feedback – again a simple thing to do after a game – we ask name one person who did something you thought was good in the match. And the coach has to watch out to make sure everyone who played is covered.
All this together, builds a team culture. Is it simple? Yes. Does it fall in place automatically? No. It must be intentional and consistent. It takes a lot of work on our part and sometimes we slip up. But the thing is this – that sense of being part of a team lasts for life. So it’s worth investing in.