Successful Teams are About Fit, Not Just Talent
The New York Yankees lost last night to the Detroit Tigers, ending their 2011 baseball campaign. With the highest payroll in baseball, most sports fans expected the Yankees to once again play in the World Series – not get bounced in the 1st round of the playoffs. So how could baseball’s richest team with a payroll of over $200 million not win it all?
While it may seem logical that by spending the most on talent that also gives you the best chance to be successful, but that’s not always the case. When it comes to people and performance, especially in team environments, there are always a number of mediating variables that impact outcomes. In the Yankees case, there is no question the physical talent is there, but what about the team quotient? In other words, how well does the team get along, and how resilient are they as a team when times are tough? Batting averages and ERA’s are nice for box scores, but how each player interacts with one another contributes to the overall mental toughness of a team and plays a big part in winning.
Of course, another consideration when it comes to why a team doesn’t win includes player motivation. In New York, many of the players are on mega-million, multi-year guaranteed contracts with little financial incentive to play with great motivation. Sure, it would be nice to know that every Yankee goes out to play his best game every day, but knowing that the majority of guys on the team are incredibly wealthy individuals it shouldn’t be surprising that from time-to-time they are at risk for lethargic, unfocused play. Of course, this is only speculative and based on simple sport psychology theories of motivation, as it is impossible to know what players were less motivated than others.
The point is that teams never win because of talent “on paper,” and that there are a number of important variables that often go unnoticed yet are vitally important for sport success. Team cohesion, player motivation, focus, and resiliency are just a few of the factors that go into winning but not statistically measured. In New york, there is no quesiton the talent is there, but it’s quite likely some of these other “X” factors may have been missing.
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