Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Team Chemistry

Bad team chemistry can devastate a sports team. Since I’m not privy to what’s going on behind the scenes with the Tampa Bay Rays, one only has to look at their dismal 42-62 record and their last place standing in the American League East to sense something is not right among teammates. I’m sure Duffy pitched an excellent game, but I’m also pretty certain he was helped by negative chemistry among Tampa Bay’s players. And if he was, then Tampa Bay’s front office needs to implement some type of program internally to help their athletes with their personal and team-related issues. If not, it’s going to be a long, long season for them.


If I were a coach and had to choose between having a team with excellent talent and very little team chemistry, or a team with a huge amount of team chemistry and only moderate talent, I’ll take the latter.

When it comes to being successful, team chemistry wins out every time. And how do you build good team chemistry?  By transforming your team into a support group.  But let’s be clear. I’m not referring to “team meetings” – where not much generally happens, but rather creating an environment that is closed off from the public where players are encouraged to air their grievances, not only with each other but also with the coaching staff, without being punished. An environment where players are able to discuss whats going on in their personal lives; the problems they may be having with members of the opposite sex;  financial problems; parental problems at home. All of these affect performance, and if not addressed, will show up during competition as mental errors because there will be a lack of focusing.

Some of the topics that should be discussed in team support group sessions include dealing with misdirected anger, what we see in others is what we’re carrying around within ourselves, the myth of the team, expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies, the power of beliefs, and goals and intentions, just to name a few. And after players unload their personal problems and issues with their teammates, they will not only be a closer knit group, but they will then be more focused and ready for visualization, which I recommend be done to special music on video tape. I call them “Power Videos.”

So if you’re a coach, next time, don’t just have a team meeting; have a support group session. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Myth #1: Some Coaches are Great Motivators.

Contrary to most beliefs, you really can’t motivate another person.  Inspire, yes. But true motivation must come from within and over the past 27 years I’ve found that the higher a person’s feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) the more motivated he or she will become.  If I were speaking to a group of people in a room and my job was to motivate them, the first thing I would do would be to organize them into a support group so they could talk about personal issues they may be keeping bottled inside themselves and as they talk about their issues and vent their feelings, they’ll start to feel better about themselves and will automatically become more motivated.  The most successful coaches are those who provide an internal mechanism for players to communicate with their teammates and discuss their issues together.  And once they do, their performance levels will increase.

Which brings me to a discussion of a book entitled:  “The Motivational Breakthrough: 6 Secrets for Turning On the Tuned-Out Child.”  But unfortunately, I couldn’t disagree with the author more.  He maintains that if you want to motivate children in school, you need to use the six P’s: Praise, Power, Projects, People, Prizes and Prestige.  From my perspective, if you want to motivate children in school, especially those who are highly unmotivated, you need to do what I’ve described above as applied to sports teams.  That is, put them into support groups and allow them to talk about issues in their personal lives and what is going on at home.  Once they open up and discuss their feelings and emotions in a support group setting with their peers, they will enhance their own feelings of self-worth and will automatically become more motivated.  There’s a correlation between High Self-Esteem and High Motivation and Low Self-Esteem and Low Motivation.  You have to work from the inside out, not the outside in.  And the same goes for so-called “Motivational Speakers” who I believe are a hoax. They should be called “Inspirational Speakers.”

Myth #2: The More We Believe We’re Part of a Team the More Successful We’ll Become.

I call this “The Myth of the Team,” and here’s how it works:  The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. I want to repeat that because it’s so important. The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. The general belief is that the opposite is true but it’s not. You see it very clearly on a team where one player is superior to others. The players who perceive themselves as less superior allow the more talented player to take over and lead the group. In the case of a basketball team, they allow the one player to rebound, to shoot, and to, in effect, be the team. As a result, their individual performances are inhibited. To counteract this, I always encourage coaches to take each player into their office and privately tell that player what he the coach expects of him or her in the coming game. Twenty points, ten rebounds, and so on. This sends a message to each player that he or she is perceived as an “individual” and has goals to achieve as an individual, rather than letting someone else take over his or her function. It also establishes expectations.

Myth #3: Positive Affirmations Always Work.

I once read a book that espoused a theory concerning positive affirmations.  This particular book, written by a sport psychologist, maintained that if you say the phrase over and over again “I am a courageous, risk-taking warrior” that you can overcome your fear of taking a risk.  This may work fine with people who have high self-esteem, but for those with a low sense of self-worth you’re speaking on deaf ears because risk-takers they are not.  There is no affirmation in the world yet devised that can get them to take a risk, until they deal with whatever issues they have in their lives that are affecting how they feel about themselves.  Then, the higher their self-esteem, the more likely they are to risk.

Athletes who want to begin feeling good about themselves must identify and begin resolving important issues in their lives before the results of being happy will surface.  Relying on positive affirmations is like wagging the tail of a dog and expecting the dog to be happy.  The dog must be happy first, and then its tail will wag…automatically.

Myth #4:  Visualization Always Works.

I’m a strong believer in the theory that what takes place away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition.  When athletes are encumbered with psychological baggage (issues and problems) visualization and other mental techniques will be ineffective.  As a Performance Enhancement Trainer/Consultant I’m able to help athletes with their persona problems and issues and can also teach them visualization techniques. And I’ve found that when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, what they visualize will actually be created during competition.

First, let me make it clear that I’m on the outside looking in and am not privy to any inside information, but I have a sense that team members don’t like quarterback Matt Cassel. First, he doesn’t hesitate to reprimand them during games on national tv and doesn’t hesitate to express his dissatisfaction with a wide receiver who drops a pass. He often does this through his body language. Some quarterbacks go out of their way to create a good relationship with their offensive linemen, but Cassel doesn’t seem to do this. I’ve never seen him put his arm around one of them or pat one of his offensive linemen on the back for a job well-done. Which could be why the offensive line is often like a sieve allowing defensive players through, consciously or subconsciously, to wreak havoc on him, not giving him time to find his receivers. If I were the head coach, I would have the offensive unit conduct a players only meeting and talk about any issues they might have with each other, especially any issues the offensive line has with Cassel. Once the air is cleared, I think you would find a significant improvement in their chemistry, and their performance

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

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