The art of working as a team

We all know that half-time feeling when your team is really lagging behind on the scoreboard. Motivation is low; energy levels even lower. Going over the game strategy in detail seems like the worst idea ever. It’s in this moment that the only useful thing to do is to focus on keeping spirits high.

Team spirit is defined as “feelings of camaraderie among the members of a group, enabling them to cooperate and work well together.” Does that exist in your team? Can they pull together when the going gets tough? No doubt, it’s not always easy.

Why worry about team spirit?

“To play a good game, you need a few players,” said R.J. Torbert (The Face of Fear). It sounds so obvious, yet it’s such a profound statement. The outcome of the game will only be as good as the combined effort of the team. What does your team focus on once they go out onto the field? Is it solely on taking home the cup or being awarded medals?

Interestingly enough, teams that are high in spirit often fare better than those who are focusing on winning alone. Teams that are united usually outperform those that aren’t. Perhaps it’s time to shift focus.

Mastering the art of working as a team

Team spirit is one of those things that need constant work. As humans we’re unfortunately so easily discouraged and thus, maintaining a positive attitude is often really difficult.

In most cases, the state of team morale rests on the attitude of the leader. Coaches at youth level have been found to assume more than just the role of “the coach”. Very often they are also the instructor, teacher, trainer, friend, motivator, disciplinarian, substitute parent, or social worker, to name but a few.

Therefore, in order to build an authentic, high spirited team, leaders or coaches need to be passionate and excited about the sport and the team’s potential. It’s been proved time and time again that the passion and enthusiasm of the leader automatically flows over to the team members.

They need to put in as much effort into cultivating a good team spirit as in teaching the skills to play the game. They need to teach team members to not focus on their own achievement, but rather that of the team as a whole. They need to help them to encourage each other, on and off the field.

The question remains, how do you practically cultivate this type of team unity and positive spirit?  

One of most successful ways is through regular team building activities. And by this, we’re not meaning going to the movies or having a team dinner every now and then. Indeed, it’s a bit more complex than that - especially since the wrong type of team building exercises can lead to cliques or isolation of individuals.

What does effective team building exercises look like then? They involve any intellectual, physical, and emotional problem-solving tasks, as well as a focus on teamwork, organisation, communication and cooperation.

According to sport psychology researchers Weinberg & Gould (2007), coaches can follow these guidelines for building team unity: 

  • Avoid excessive turnover and social cliques on teams.
  • Get to know each team member - especially new ones.
  • Encourage group identity by allowing players to identify what makes them unique.
  • Make sure that all team members understand how they can contribute to team success.
  • Arrange group meetings at which players can discuss common issues such as team strategies, stress, or preparing for competition.
  • Clarify the role differentiation of each player.
  • Establish specific, challenging, long-term goals.
  • Create an environment in which all team members are comfortable enough to express their thoughts and feelings and communicate in the most effective manner possible.

When it comes to team sports, it’s all about setting reachable goals and, above all, having fun. Nothing keeps spirits high as having fun together as a team. As they say, “teamwork makes the dream work!”

Have you mastered the art of working as a team? How do keep your team’s spirit high?

At Zatsa, our sole focus is to create team spirit by ensuring smooth communication between schools and parents. 

Zatsa is the preferred sports administration app in South Africa. It provides South African schools with an easy-to-use platform to administrate and manage school sports events. It's the only locally available solution that enables two-way communication between schools and parents - with a specific focus on sports events. 

For more, go to Zatsa.