Building team relationships

Psychology in sportMotivation in sport

Teamwork is the foundation of sporting success. This is as true for athletes in individual sports as it is for those in team sports. Developing self-awareness and an understanding of yourself is the gateway to building effective working relationships with your team.

Whether your team is newly formed or has been working as a collective for a while, a team of athletes or an individual athlete and their support staff, going back to the basics of developing a solid foundation is a great place to start.

It all starts with an understanding!

If you ask someone about their team, more often than not you'll be met by an assortment of facts and figures about their sporting achievements and physical ability. There's often an assumption that people who are strong and physically fit will come out on top. This assumption is proven incorrect time after time.

Physical ability is, of course, a critical component of sports performance. But what about mental ability? How often do team members consider what's under the surface of their team-mates? This critical element is often the missing piece.

Giving your team the tools to gain a deeper understanding of how they behave, their strengths and limitations and their motivators is the first step. This will help create an environment of understanding that will provide a solid foundation for building relationships.

Uncovering the behavioural and emotional preferences of individuals will empower teams to come to consider the impact they have on others and will therefore help them to understand where they may need to modify. With this new found knowledge of themselves and their team mates, it will help their understanding of how best to communicate, how to motivate others and ultimately how to develop team working skills that will have the biggest influence on performance.

Improving team dynamics

We have all experienced teams, either in the office or on the sports field, where the collective effort is undermined by one person – if a member of your team is demotivated, there is a huge risk that their negativity could rub off on everyone else.

However, team performance is complex and is not simply the sum of its parts. If team motivation remains a problem, but you cannot identify a performance issue with a single member, what else might be going on? Is there a personality clash somewhere? Is there a lack of trust or empathy between members? Are teammates struggling to communicate effectively or understand each other?

If your team members are self-aware, then you have a base to build the team. The next challenge is to help embed each player's personal insights into the team, so that each person truly understands (rather than judges) the others' styles, motivations and fears and any critical differences can be highlighted and managed in a safe, honest and trusting environment.

The better the interaction, the more efficient training and performance becomes, so removing unnecessary sources of conflict is one of the fastest routes to motivating sports teams towards the common goal: winning!

Maintaining dynamics

A commitment to making individual and team improvements, along with changes that enhance performance and capitalise on strengths, will ensure your team is constantly working together as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Why not implement training courses for your team? This will help to not only enhance soft skills within your team, but also provide a fantastic opportunity for team and relationship building. Showing your support to developing the team will ensure individual members feel a growing sense of trust and recognition within the organisation. When team members are able to trust each other and work collaboratively, motivation increases and objectives are easier to reach.

When team members work well together, there is little they cannot accomplish. Make sure you're looking at the bigger picture when it comes to your teams and increase your chances of developing a high performing team.