Maintaining team chemistry as a coach may be more important than X's and O's to a team's success throughout a season. Seasons are long and each one has its own unique ups and downs and challenges. However, it is necessary to keep your team operating as a single unit.
Individual players have the tendency to get frustrated when their minutes are cut down or their shot opportunities are decreased. It's during times like this that it's essential for the player(s) to see the larger picture and pull for the team regardless of individual issues. Team chemistry must be a higher priority than individual goals. If coaches sense there might be an issue with team chemistry, it must be caught early on and fixed as quickly as possible.
Since this issue is something all coaches have dealt with at one point or another in their career we decided to put together a list of ways to build and retain team chemistry.
For this article we polled several successful high school and college coaches and picked out common threads we saw in the answers they gave.
#1 Team Captains
Assigning team captains is a very popular philosophy amongst coaches. Every coach I talked to believed in some form of naming team leaders. However, the players who are picked must earn the title of Team Captain. Arbitrarily picking players to fill the role greatly lessens the honor. Picking players who understand and embrace the opportunity to be a team leader is important and more beneficial to their teammates.
Team captains can help “spread a coach’s gospel,” as one coach put it. Team captains can almost double as assistant coaches. One coach has his team captains determine the conditioning that the team has to do at the end of practice. This makes conditioning seem more like a team activity as opposed to a punishment. Players are more receptive to their peers. One coach recommended having team captains because those players are able to put it on their resume.
Coach Danny Miles, who has over 1,000 wins at the college level, recommended an interesting way to handle a situation when some players have seniority over others. He would have the seniors carry the equipment bags of the freshmen as opposed to it normally being the other way around. Coach Miles went on to say about the carrying of the bags that, ”no one faction of the team does more than the others. ” The level of contribution should be the same across the board, regardless of age.
#2 Do Things As A Team Off The Court
Sharing meals as a team is a great way to build chemistry. University of Iowa Women’s Coach Lisa Bluder said, “We eat a training table meal together every single day.” It lends everyone the opportunity to get to know each other off the court. Coaches can get to know their players a lot better during these team meals. You can ask about their lives outside of basketball, ask about their parents, find out what their hobbies are off the court, etc.
Players and coaches getting to know each other on a more personal level will build a stronger bond between everyone.
If your team is presented with the opportunity to do something positive in the community, make sure you don’t miss it. Examples that were given by coaches were: bowling, litter pick up, working with senior citizens, reading to young kids, etc.
Not only will you be giving back to the community, which builds character amongst your players, but also your players will bond in a way that isn’t measurable. Having your players work as a team on something not related to basketball is a great way to improve upon team chemistry.
If your team is a traveling team, a good time to get to know each other is during long bus trips between games.
#3 Emphasize Team Goals Instead Of Individuality
Emphasizing things like defense and rebounding is important because those things are done as a TEAM. The goal of not allowing the other team to score takes a whole team effort.
There must be a common goal between players instead of each player having an individual goal. All the players on the floor must work together in order to accomplish the goals that are set forth by you the coach.
The advantage of forming team chemistry this way is that it’s seemingly unintentional. When you teach things as a team it’s only natural that the team will become stronger and operate more as a single unit. One coach preferred building team chemistry this way. Instead of taking time away from practice and specifically working on team chemistry, this accomplishes both at the same time.
Another way to accomplish this is to have what one coach called an Equal Opportunity Offense. This type of offense isn’t run through one specific player. Instead it has a very simple but effective philosophy: if you’re open for a good shot, take it. By doing things this way no players will ever feel like they’re being marginalized by their teammates. The more you allow each player to feel as if they’re able to contribute at any time, the better team moral will be.
#4 Recruit The Right Players
Nobody knows a team better than their coach. You know what type of player works in your system and what type of player doesn’t work. It’s important to have a solid grasp on what you’re looking for in recruits so you don’t bring a player in who doesn’t fit the mold you’ve created.
If there’s a player who might bring a higher level of talent to the team but might disrupt the chemistry of your team it’s important to think long and hard about the decision to bring that player aboard or not. Coach Mike Neer, who has over 600 wins at the college level, told me that he has done this on multiple occasions. If he didn’t think the player fit with his system and his current players, then he stopped recruiting the player. A coach put it this way, “You need players who will sing in your choir, not one who will break off into a solo”.
I also had a coach tell me that input from current players is an incredibly valuable way to determine whether or not a recruit will work with your team. They’re the ones who will be on the court with the recruit; ask them for their opinion. Doing so will not only give you insight into the recruit’s style of play and how he might mesh with the team but will also give the players the feeling that their opinion matters.
This one is very simple but essential. Every single coach I interviewed said that the best teams they coached had great team chemistry. That team chemistry led to wins. The more success your team has the easier it will be to have good team chemistry. Not to mention it’ll make it easier on the coach. The less time the coach has to deal with team chemistry issues, the more time he’ll have to focus on coaching. It goes the other way as well. The better your team chemistry is the more likely the team has the potential to succeed. Once that circle starts, the team will start running like a well-oiled machine. Reaching this point should be the goal of every coach, regardless of the sport.
At the end of the day, team chemistry could very well be the most important thing to a basketball team. Honesty amongst teammates and coaches has the potential to make or break a team and it all starts with the coach. A coach must lead by example and show that honesty is always the best policy, on and off the court. These lessons will translate to when the players interact with one another. A coach’s ability to build and continue building team chemistry throughout the course of a season should be one of the top priorities.
What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions. . .