How to build team spirit

Togetherness doesn’t come ready-made. Assembling it takes sound thinking and application

DO get out of your comfort zone
“Classic team development employs exercises that stretch the players from their comfort zone into a new situation,” says Richard Tyler of team-building experts BTFI. “We use singing. It exposes vulnerability and puts people in a situation where they are equal. And you can bet you’ll have a good laugh after.” It certainly worked for harmonious Diamond Lights pairing Hoddle and Waddle.

DO set realistic team goals

“Task cohesion creates team spirit if done correctly,” explains sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson. Note the ‘done correctly’. “Key to this is the team’s goals and getting everyone on board. Your team may understand the goals but if they are unrealistic – winning promotion after losing four of your best players, for example – their performances are likely to remain under-par."

More after the break

DO lead by example – win or lose
"Team spirit is built on the presence of leadership qualities,” says Scott Bradley, senior lecturer in sports psychology at Buckinghamshire New University. “Leaders don’t get distracted by the highs of victory or the lows of defeat. They show others the path to follow.” Doing extra training or helping out with the junior team  will show your team-mates what it takes to succeed.

DON'T brag about your future prospects

“Instability causes cracks in any team so if, for example, you’re planning to move on at the end of the season, keep it to yourself until after the last game,” says Bradley. Just take Alex Ferguson. In 2001 he announced he’d retire the following season. That 2002 campaign was a fallow one. In 2013 he revealed his retirement after Manchester United had clinched the Premier League title.

DON'T slaughter the players in public

“It’s a fact – no-one enjoys public humiliation,” says Bradley. “Punitive focus (punishing a player) rather than people focus (getting to the heart of the matter) will be destructive.” So try to avoid doing a Phil Brown and lecturing your players in full view of your supporters. You will be better off seeking out one-on-one meetings to address the issues in a more confidential manner.

DON'T single individuals out for praise

“Having favourites within the team is a surefire way to dissolve any potential bond between the players,” says Tyler. “Always give the players equal time, respect, challenge and encouragement.” The same applies to pranks. Constantly smothering Deep Heat in the new player’s jockstrap might be funny at first, but it could quickly become tiresome, divisive and rather painful.

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