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TOGETHER AS ONE - HOW TEAMS EVOLVE OVER TIME

Post By: Coach Dan | Tuesday, April 7, 2020

GOALS GOAL SETTING performance

All teams are groups but not all groups are teams. Ah yes, the old adage. So what makes a group a team rather than a group? Well, a shared mission for starters. Having a goal over and above the agendas of the individual create a collaborative mission that a team can rally around. Teams also differ from groups in that the leadership is shared among the team members as opposed to leadership disseminating different instructions to each individual. Take the example of a classroom versus a soccer team. The teacher in the classroom provides instructions to all, but direction to each individual so that that student can meet their learning needs. A soccer team's coach will provide different pointers to different players but address the team as a whole as to what their culture, plays, and norms may be.

So if we are dealing with teams, how do good teams become great teams? Here we turn to a great model created by Bruce Tuckman, in 1965, in his seminal work: “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” In this article, Tuckman broke down four stages of team development, and later added a fifth:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing
  5. Adjourning

Now let's delve into each stage and take a closer look:

Forming. The group is just coming together and getting to know one another. Think tryouts and the first couple of weeks of a new season. During this time, there is a feeling out process that is happening as the coach is setting rules and norms, roles are being parsed out, a culture or “way we do things here” is being developed.

What can I do as an athlete during this time?

  • Start a group chat!
  • Ask a teammate to join you for lunch
  • Speak up in practice.
  • Set goals for what you want to accomplish
  • Make your voice heard and your impact felt

Storming. Now that the season is in full swing, some conflicts may naturally start to occur. There may be a battle for playing time or simply some conflict deriving from hard competition amongst each other. There may be push back against the coach's demands or a disconnect between coaches and players. This is where many teams can go awry, as often times these conflicts aren't addressed but simply swept under the rug. The key is not to have any conflict – most great teams have significant conflict! Rather, the objective is to use said conflict to transform into a more communicative, cohesive unit.

What can I do as an athlete during this time?

  • Resolve issues that arise with teammates
  • Help teammates resolve issues if they are struggling to do so
  • Stay positive in the face of challenging circumstances
  • Set up a team meeting to illicit communication among teammates
  • Discuss any disconnect between players and coaching staff with the coach

Norming. The team is now coalescing around the vision of their coach and resolving disputes that have come up between them. Roles are more clearly delineated and a collective buy-in is felt. There is a regular rhythm between practices and game days, a sense of shared understanding as to how things are done on the team and what violations of those norms looks like. Players begin to hold each other accountable with more regularity.

What can I do as an athlete during this time?

  • Set up a team dinner or other team outing
  • Check-in on your goals and re-evaluate if needed
  • Maintain strong lines of communication between you and your teammates
  • Keep doing what you're doing- it's working!

Performing. We're well into the season now, and the team is humming along. This doesn't necessarily mean you're winning games as much as you'd like, but there is a general sense of fulfillment from those involved as to the experience they are participating in. You and your teammates enjoy coming to the gym/field to see each other every day. There is a shared motivation to continue to your best even if that means some sacrifice in other areas of your life.

What can I do as an athlete during this time?

  • Do your best! The team is humming along and as a member of that team, you have a responsibility to help keep that going. Continue to bring great effort every day.
  • Point out the positive: make a point to “big up” (praise) your teammates for productive actions/plays you see them make.

Adjourning. The season ends. You may have reached some of your individual and group goals, and perhaps you fell short on others. This is when your team disbands and there will inevitably some sense of loss or sadness at the end of the ride. This can be quite difficult for athletes who have a predilection for regular routines and who love their sport and their teammates.

What can I do as an athlete during this time?

  • Set up a team banquet (or make sure you attend if the coach is arranging it)
  • Communicate your appreciation for your teammates and the coaches
  • Speak with a mental performance coach if you're feeling the end is difficult for you to manage
  • Continue to be in touch with your teammates – they can be life-long friends!

These stages of team development are a helpful way for you to look at your upcoming seasons. Know that it is a journey for a group to become a team and for a team to become a successful one! While the stages are mostly linear, there will be times when a team seems to be norming or performing and conflicts, or storming, come up again. Continue to do your part as a valued team member by helping resolve conflicts and staying positive in the face of adversity, and positive in the face of positive! Let people know you appreciate the good – it goes a long way towards building care and trust.

Good luck on your journey!

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