The best teams in sports are the ones that maximize productivity of all team members. Notice, I didn’t say the best teams are those that have the best players (though that does sometimes occur), but instead teams where every player knows his or her specific role, and just as importantly emphatically embraces their specific role. While this might sound easy to do, it requires team leaders to get to know each player, his/her strengths and weaknesses, how he/she best communicates, and what buttons to push in order to maximize motivation. This process takes people skills, vision, and patience, but the end result is often a team that far over-achieves expectations and allows for an amazing life experience.
Defining formal & informal roles
When it comes to team building there are two roles players assume: Formal and informal. Both roles are of great importance to team success, and getting players to buy-in to their role is a big part of the coach’s job. Delving into these roles deeper you might think of them in the following ways:
- Formal roles. Examples of formal roles include player positions on the field or court (i.e. quarterback, point guard, kicker). Formal roles are generally well-defined and include specific strategies and plays for the position.
- Informal roles. Informal roles are not as well defined as in the case of a formal position, but instead talked about in more general terms (i.e. the enforcer, the energy player, etc.). Players who assume informal team roles don’t usually adhere to specific plays, but instead focus on bringing a unique element to the field or court that enhances the overall play of the team.
In an ideal team situation players embrace their role on the team (formal or informal), and carry out their duties with pride and motivation. The net result is a fully functioning team, and one that is well positioned to reach its full potential.
The coach challenge
Identifying the respective formal/informal roles for each player is just part of the challenge a coach faces when putting players in the right spot. Many coaches report that the bigger proposition is selling each player on his or her unique team role — while this might not be a big deal for the star quarterback, other less glamorous jobs tend to require more work. For example, how do you get reserve bench players to fully embrace their role, and to play with passion and purpose the rare times they enter the game? Furthermore, how do you get these players to realize that their role, as minimal it may seem on the surface, actually greatly contributes to the overall value of the team? Great coaches refine their people skills and build strong, lasting relationships with players built on trust, honesty, and respect on order to accomplish strong team cohesion.
While coaching may seem easy with those rare teams that simply come together and excel on their own, in most cases team success starts with the coach and the way he or she works to get players in the right position. When every player feels as though their job is unique and significant, only then will team members give 100% and maximize individual (and team) effort. Coaching is a lot more than X’s and O’s, especially when it comes to managing personalities and egos.