I have worked with many different teams over the last decade, with athletes from various skill levels and ages, and there is one attribute, one trait, one characteristic that stands out above the rest in making a difference between a great team and a mediocre team. Of course, there are things such as athleticism and the ability to adapt. I’m not diminishing the value of these traits, but if I could only identify one thing that separates great teams from mediocre teams, it is this.
Look at Lebron James or Richard Sherman. Regardless of how you feel about these athletes, they have one thing in common: they are always trying to be better than they were the last game. They watch videos of their performance and they study their sport and become masters of it. They have personal coaches they meet with to develop their skills. Isn’t that the drive we want our athletes to have?
They say that a chain can only be as strong as the weakest link. This is true for our teams as well. The weakest link on your team isn’t necessarily the least skilled nor the least intelligent — although it could be. The weakest link is the team member who doesn’t care to better them self. These people are complacent with their current skill level, don’t take constructive criticism, and buck at any opportunity to grow (e.g. clinics, extra practice, open gyms).
But maybe they are actually unaware of how they come off. Maybe they don’t understand why it is important to continually grow their skillset. Maybe all it takes is for you to sit down with them, have a little one-on-one coaching moment, and share your team’s vision. And if that doesn’t work, then maybe they need to take a little break from playing.
So what is the difference maker? The difference maker is great teams are full of people who have a desire for growth and learning. This desire for growth shows humility. These team members understand that they don’t know everything and that they are willing to surround themselves with those who know more than them.
One strategy that I have started incorporating with my teams is one-on-ones with each player. This allows me to discuss any challenges my athletes may be facing and how they can take their next step toward success. Having one-on-ones can also build a deeper influence with your team as they see that you genuinely care about them and their success.