The Wall Street Journal ran an article, “The Elusive Riddle of Team Chemistry”, by Jared Diamond that all coaches would be wise to read. Although the article is MLB based, there is perhaps even greater reason for basketball coaches to familiarize themselves with the content because our sport is founded to a very large degree on 5 player interaction at both ends of the floor. While baseball has its moments of team play, the sport’s very foundation consists of two very individual actions-pitching and hitting.
With the reading of the Wall Street Journal article as a backdrop, let’s examine some tried and true methods of fostering team chemistry:
- There is a strong notion that team functions away from the court might be the most practical way to promote team chemistry. These outings can be as varied as picnics, dinners, movies, attending other games (even other sports) etc. These team functions are as boundless as one’s imagination.
- In the same vein but with an altruistic bent, team participation in community service activities can be extremely bonding. Possibilities here include visits to hospitals or nursing homes as well as actual hands on services such as collecting food for donation baskets, conservation projects and Habitat for Humanity type building or renovation projects.
- Having a team cause can be very effective. This has to occur naturally because of an event with which all or most team members can identify. Having to search for a cause probably is counter-productive.
- Latching on to elements of school or program tradition can be very bonding. Not only do the members of the current team bond with each other, but in effect they are bonding with all the great or good in the program that preceded them. The best “chemistry” coaches use any tradition they have.
- Use small gestures like Dean Smith’s early North Carolina teams pointing to the player who made an assist or all team members standing to greet a teammate coming out of the game and returning to the bench. Watching other teams and “borrowing” similar gestures can be added to promote the desired effect.
- As much as game behavior is important, the amount of time that players spend in practice, video sessions and the weight room is much more significant than game day time together. An atmosphere of getting better together needs to be promoted on a daily basis. Just like any other facet of the game, chemistry isn’t just going to automatically show up on game day.
- Just an unscientific observation but maybe a healthy, collective team sense of humor is a very important building block.
- Everyone in the program has to contribute to team chemistry-from the head coach to the assistants, the managers, the statisticians, the trainers and yes, even the parents. Weak links in this area are like all other weak links.
- We just used the word “contribute”. Developing team chemistry is a process. It has to be active, not passive. Forcing it to happen won’t work but waiting for to it to happen on its own won’t either.
- It might be wise to occasionally assess team chemistry as a staff just as you would any other phase of your system or program.
And 1 Don’t
- Don’t treat anyone in the program as if his or her contribution isn’t vital to the team’s overall health and eventual success.