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Coaches Corner Additional Articles and Tips

Building Teamwork

Frank Lenti
Head Football Coach
Mt. Carmel High School
1996

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, often said that "there are three things vital to success in athletics: conditioning, fundamentals, and working together as a team." Of these three elements, "working together as a team" often proves to be the most elusive goal.

Teamwork is essentially an interaction of five key elements, as follows:

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS
Clear, positive communications from coach to coach, coach to athlete and athlete to athlete are essential in establishing the concept of "teamwork" and in fostering all the other basic elements of teamwork. Effective communication enables all the team members and the staff to clearly understand the team goals and work toward the achievement of the stated objectives.

As a coaching staff, we focus on two communication principles: 1) clearly and repeatedly communicating both our expectations of players as individual athletes, students, and team members, and the reasons for our expectations, and 2) remembering that effective communications is a two-way street: that is, the coaching staff must listen to the athletes, too.

WINNING ATTITUDES
All coaches know that the players with good attitudes are usually the ones who will contribute the most to the team. However, it's not enough to inspire good attitudes in individual players: a "team attitude" is necessary in building the kind of teamwork upon which winning is predicated.

At Mount Carmel, we define a good team attitude by how well the athletes accept their roles and their responsibilities to the team. The star role is relatively easy to accept, but it is equally important for the team specialists and back-ups to understand and accept their roles and responsibilities.

Coaches should encourage this kind of attitude by setting an example: accepting all the responsibilities of their coaching position, not just the ones that they like.

TEAM EGO
Once players understand and accept their roles on the team, it is possible to take the concept of "team attitude" one step farther to "team ego." This simply means that players must overcome their own egos for the good of the entire team.

MOTIVATION
The subordination of individual attitudes and egos cannot happen in a vacuum. The players must be given a reason to be motivated to achieve a favorable outcome for the team.

Coaches can set up a continuing system of motivation by setting long-term goals and by encouraging players to achieve them by meeting a series of short-term goals. At Mount Carmel, we also include personal and academic goals. By measuring progress in small steps, we can give each athlete an ongoing sense of achievement and keep his or her motivation high.

Athletes can also motivate one another. We usually split players into drill groups and score them as a team rather than as individuals, making the players feel they have a vested interest in each other.

DISCIPLINE
The establishment and maintenance of positive communications, team attitudes and egos, and motivation depends heavily on the final element of teamwork ­ discipline. Discipline is the glue that holds everything else together. Coaches should remember that discipline, if used fairly and consistently, is a positive force in building teamwork.

Rules are a part of discipline, although we have found that too many rules have a negative impact on teamwork. It is also important to make sure that the rules you do have are consistent with team goals, are realistic and are enforceable.

A key focus in our discipline program at Mount Carmel is developing self-discipline, which we define as "what one does when no one is watching." We help athletes develop self-discipline through: 1) setting goals as described above, 2) clearly communicating the coach's expectations for the players and maintaining those standards, and 3) demanding the best effort from each athlete, whether in practice, in the classroom, or in a game.

General Tips

Always back up
No matter where a ball is hit, you should be moving somewhere. Even if the ball is not hit towards you, you should be moving to a position in case of an error or overthrow.

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