The Philadelphia Eagles are this football season’s self-acclaimed “Dream Team,” a moniker previously used by the NBA’s Miami Heat. Unfortunately, the Eagles are 1-3 right now, looking nothing like one of the leagues elite teams. The Eagles are learning that in sports games are never won “on paper,” and similar to the Miami Heat they appear to be having great difficulty living up to their boastful claims (Advanced Human Performance Systems).
In sports, there are a number of variables that impact the success of a team, including the physical abilities of players, position fit, mental toughness, and team leadership. Interestingly, confidence (self-efficacy) is a really big piece to athletic success and research has supported this in countless studies. Unfortunately, over-confidence can work in the opposite direction, and lead to otherwise talented and able teams to perform far below their expectations and capabilities. Over-confidence can impact pro, college, high school, and youth sport teams, as self-proclaimed “Dream Teams” exist at all levels.
Teams that refer to themselves as “Dream Teams” essentially put a huge “X” on their back, inviting their opponents to play their best game of the year and knock the over-confident dream teamers on their butts. The Miami Heat struggled early last season living up to their self-proclaimed title, and the Philadelphia Eagles are replicating the same struggles right now. And while the Heat did eventually make it to the NBA Finals last year, hardly anyone then (or now) is referring to them as a “Dream Team.”
Over-confident teams need to remember that regardless of the names of the players on the team, a team’s level of success is always fluid and prone to experience events that can quickly change the outcomes on the field or court. In addition to regularly playing teams who bring their “A” game to knock off the Dream Team, there are other land mines the team must avoid throughout the season, including player injuries/suspensions, team in-fighting, poor team leadership, and poor coping skills to deal with resiliency issues.
Confidence is a great thing for a team to develop, but over-confidence will kill you every time. No games have ever been “won on paper,” and while some athletes talk about enjoying the “X” on their back, the reality is that eventually another team’s “A game” is going to catch the favorite off-guard at some point. Sports are tough enough – who needs that extra pressure?!
If you are a parent or coach, make it a point to talk about teams like the Heat and Eagles and how over-confidence can lead to unexpected team problems. Help young athletes stay focused on reaching their individual goals, which will lead to team success. Using this approach, not only will they develop self-confidence, but will also learn the importance of focus — another variable closely associated with athletic success. As far as “Dream Teams” go, you will always have the Heat and Eagles to point to when you need examples of how over-confidence can negatively impact team success.