Basketball Teamwork - Together We Will Succeed

D. Scott Ward, Ph.D.

It's amazing what can be accomplished when no one is concerned with receiving the credit.  Great basketball team cohesion occurs when everyone is working toward the same definitive goal (teamwork).  The pursuit of the definitive goal transcends any individual goals when athletes are truly working as a team.  The secret of winning basketball games is working more as a team and less as individuals.  Play not your 5 best, but your best 5.

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Although many variables exist in team sport, and no simple method can provide athletes and coaches with all of the answers, a couple of key principles seem to surface on all successful teams.  Responsibility and team-consciousness lead the list.  Athletes should know that their effort and commitment correspond to team success, especially when they fully buy into the strength of a group mind-set.  This acceptance and understanding evolves as the team becomes comfortable with each person's role.  At first, the process is not as simple as it sounds — especially in an era where individual performance is highlighted again and again in the media.  As time passes and team members learn how to meet challenges to enhance performance, responsibility and team-consciousness become natural elements of success.

If a team is able to successfully meld the strengths of all of its unique, individual members, that team can accomplish optimal performance together.  John Wooden called this success the "peace of mind" that comes from knowing you've given your very best for the team.   When players allow themselves to become committed to the larger goals of the group, the individual members begin to learn to trust one another.  What a great feeling to know that your teammate will do whatever she or he can to make the team succeed.  When the team is on the same wavelength, it can begin to encounter "zone" experiences.  The players can simultaneously "lock on and let go," trusting each other in a sort of team flow that can begin to decide the squad's destiny. The sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.  Synergy or cooperative action is an essential ingredient for team success in basketball.  What can you do to help promote this team synergy?

Specifically, in an effort to become responsible, players should:

1.Fully accept the notion that the group can accomplish more together than any individual could ever hope to achieve.

2.Get to know each other well, respecting each other's unique experiences and backgrounds, making trust easier.

3.Encourage and help each other — this will make it easier to take the necessary chances to continually improve.

4.Communicate with each other (and coaches) and constructively deal with conflicts, they provide an opportunity to grow.

5.Give all out effort at all times.

Coaches should provide an atmosphere that allows the above to take place, and:
1.Clearly explain roles.

2.Set challenging, appropriate goals.

3.Allow the team to create a positive team identity.

4.Be aware of each individual's uniqueness (know something personal about each person).

5.Continually promote team thinking — Together…We Will Succeed.

If you watch college athletics, you are often fortunate to witness these principles in action.   Teams are most competitive when they seem to embody the definition of harmony.  Harmony grows when you really listen to others and they listen to you, when you are considerate of their feelings and they are considerate of yours, when you accept their differences and they accept yours, and when you help them and they help you.  When you truly are able to believe in your teammates, you can decide the future together.


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