Athletics is more than just a physical competition; it also involves mental aptitude and teamwork. Many of the principles and values that are required to build a successful athletic team can also be applied to other areas of life, particularly leadership positions. In this article, we shall explore five key principles of effective team building in the athletic arena that can be applied by leaders to their own organizations.
One of the most crucial aspects of building a successful team is demonstrating care and concern for team members. Coaches in athletics demand consistent hard work from their athletes every night during practices. John Wooden, the iconic UCLA basketball coach, famously preached that “There is no substitute for hard work.” His players bought into his teaching and validated this by winning seven NCAA basketball championships in a row and ten in the last twelve years he coached.
Individual players and teams work tirelessly for their coaches because they know that their coach genuinely cares for them beyond the court or field. Rick Majerus, the outstanding University of Utah and St. Louis University basketball coach, would tell his fellow coaches the famous John Maxwell quote: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
The importance of demonstrating care for team members cannot be overlooked. In athletics, players know that their coaches genuinely care for them, and that is why they are willing to put in the hard work required to achieve success. Leaders in other areas of life can apply this principle by showing genuine care and concern for their team members. It is essential to create an environment where team members feel supported and valued.
2. Team Ego
The great Boston Celtic player, Bill Russell, said this about his teammates who won eleven NBA championships in the thirteen seasons he played in Boston. When they entered a building for practice or a game, they left their individual egos outside the door but brought in their Team Ego. The Celtic teams believed that if an opponent were to beat them, they better bring a great game because they knew they were going to. They knew they would not win every game. They were not over-confident, but they knew that they would play hard, smart, and together.
A coach knows when his players buy into Team Ego. Successful team builders know that individual achievements must take a back seat to team accolades. A team is more than the sum of its individual parts, and it is essential to instill in team members the importance of working together towards a common goal. Leaders can apply this principle by encouraging team members to set aside individual achievements and work together towards a common goal or objective.
Successful team builders put great value in the art of listening, and learning how to listen well is an important concept on how to build a team. Athletics is a great venue for young people to learn the importance of listening. In all sports, coaches teach the fundamentals of their sport, followed by a system or strategy of play. This is a high or advanced way of teaching for the listener to absorb.
In the classroom, the teacher presents their subject matter. When the test comes, the students give back the knowledge they learned from the teacher. In athletics, the athletes must learn both the fundamentals and the system if they are to be successful. The test is the game. During this test, there is an opponent trying to disrupt the players from executing their fundamentals and their system. So, the players must first learn the rudiments of the sport and the system of play, then execute their knowledge under duress.
Great team builders are active listeners and develop teams where listening is preeminent throughout their organizations. Leaders can apply this principle by actively listening to team members, seeking their feedback and opinion, and working together to create successful outcomes.
Two outstanding coaches have something to say about credit. John Wooden said, “Give all the credit away.” My college coach, Gordie Gillespie, whose teams in football, basketball, and baseball won 2,402 games and who was inducted into eighteen Halls of Fame in his illustrious career, would tell coaches at clinics, “It’s not about you.”
Leaders who build successful teams must share the credit with those who made it possible. In athletics, accolades come to the coach, but it is the players who ultimately deserve the credit. It is essential to recognize the contributions of team members and to create an environment where they feel appreciated and valued.
Leaders can apply this principle by recognizing the contributions of team members, creating opportunities for them to share their successes, and being transparent about individual roles and the value they bring to the team.
Successful team builders understand the importance of selflessness. In the athletic arena, players must put aside their individual goals and desires for the good of the team. This requires a significant amount of trust and cooperation among team members, as they work together to achieve a common goal.
Leaders who build successful teams must create an environment where selflessness is valued. This requires modeling selflessness by putting the needs of the team ahead of personal desires. It also means providing opportunities for team members to share their successes and to feel appreciated for their contributions to the team’s success.
In conclusion, building a successful team in athletics requires several concepts that can be translated into other areas of life. These concepts include caring, team ego, listening, credit, and selflessness. Leaders who apply these principles to their organizations can create an environment where team members feel valued, supported, and empowered to achieve their fullest potential. By building a team based on these principles, leaders can inspire their team members to work together towards a common goal, achieve success, and create a lasting legacy.