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Team Building
By Dan Freigang, Sport Psychologist with the U.S. National Team

From the Virginia Youth Soccer Assoc. (www.vysa.com) Coaches Corner

 

Make It So


Last month's topic of selling your mission was well received and many of you responded by requests for more insight in "selling your mission." Techniques to implement change within a team's mission can help to promote success and enjoyment with players. When you have people buy into the daily training with passion, you reap the benefits of a high performance team. To get there however, you need to plan simple organizational steps. This is what we call team building. The issue for coaches in building teams is how to promote growth in a group moving collectively toward a goal. This can be challenging because not all groups function well just because they have no problems during training. Think of the work situations you have experienced. How many offices function without politics, waste and failure? The answer is many offices operate but not many organizations function at optimum levels. The question remains clear. "How can you as a leader maximize individual talents and create synergy within groups of people?" Creating Synergy

Synergy is the highest level of energy created from people's talents. You have probably heard of this situation before, when you give to another person you receive back more than you give. Yes I know it sounds kind of cliche but it is really a wonderful experience. In these relationships there is excitement, commitment and motivation that are beyond what you normally achieve. This synergy creates more energy by multiplying itself and the effects become summative. It is what many championship programs call buying in or coming together. Creating synergy on teams is exactly what we are after in our workplace and our teams. All teams can promote synergy and it is within every team's potential to create and enjoy. I get a lot of requests to come in and help the team building process in corporate and sport settings so let me give you an introduction in how to get this started yourself. Start with a vision.

This is the dreaming stage within your mind. What would you like to create as a coach or manager? What are your goals for a perfect situation? This is a creative stage and I encourage you to stretch limits and think of all your possibilities. The next stage is to communicate your ideas to key people in the group for feedback and gain their insight. Communication of your ideas is critical as you need to convince players to come on board. Players need to have input that leads to ownership if you want your mission to be successful so be prepared to clarify and adapt! You can present a vignette or scenario to your entire team to create a sense of urgency, excitement and change. As always something simple, clear and inspirational can help to instigate change. As an example try presenting this to your team and have a discussion about your team's goals. What we can learn from Geese.

This fall when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying in "V" formation, you might be interested to know what science has discovered about why they fly that way.

  • Lesson 1: It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
  • Lesson 2 Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. If we will stay in formation we can make the trip easily.
  • Lesson 3 When the lead goose gets tired, he or she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. It pays to take turns doing hard jobs, whether it's people or geese flying south.
  • Lesson 4 The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. What do we say when we honk from behind?
  • Lesson 5 Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gun shots and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and they then launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their group.

Team building is an Evolution
When you present this "lesson from geese" you must lead the group into a discussion about how we can act and exemplify these traits in our daily lives. Most teams say they want to win and work hard. Talk like this is easy in the preseason without difficulties, injures or losses. The responses to lesson from geese will help to encourage players to think about their behavior and their goals to act as a blueprint for core behaviors. This initial stage needs your leadership to identify the need for change and gain feedback from the players. You see, there is usually some discrepancies between what teams think they are doing and what they are acting out in reality. This is how a leader can use personal creativity and experience to guide group change. The interchange and subsequent re-evaluation of behaviors from this singular group exercise help to establish and clarify group commitment. When you establish a group commitment, you have a framework of a mission core values set up for future difficult periods. Please be aware that group change takes time that requires moving through predictable group stages. By beginning this initial commitment to mission phase you have begun to move toward a functioning team. It doesn't mean you have created the high performance team yet, but you now are moving toward change and team movement is an accomplishment for any coach. Pitfalls to Avoid

As a coach you come to the team with your personal experiences and personality styles. These are your strengths and you should develop your mission from your personal values and not pretend to assume someone else. I have provided the lessons from geese as an example for you but there are multitudes of exercises for you to identify group goals and behaviors. There are a lot of poor companies with fancy mission statements that employees recognize as lies. If you go through this process and then act inappropriately then you will lose the respect and commitment of the group. Be true to yourself as a coach and be truthful to your players. Now its game time

As always, talk is cheap and now its game time. Lets see if you have learned from reading this article.

1. Synergy is always there and will eventually show up.

True

False

2. Creativity is a limiting factor in athletic performance.

True

False

3. You should always use the lessons from geese exercise.

True

False

4. Teams need to evolve through predicable stages of growth.

True

False

5. Coaches should adapt the mission from winning programs.

True

False

1=False | 2=True | 3=False | 4=True | 5=False

 


Dan Freigang Ph.D. is a sport scientist working with the U.S.S.F. in Sport Psychology. Dano travels the country doing clinics and workshops with clubs and individuals. Dano was an internationally ranked athlete and national team coach and he presents his skills as a unique blend of scientist and coach. He is currently in private practice and invites your comments and inquiries. Caldan@Earthlink.net