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Chemistry in athletics

The best teams are the close knit ones./Arthur Ward
The best teams are the close knit ones./Arthur Ward

Chemistry isn’t solely just for math

Author: john loeppky – contributor

A successful sports franchise is constructed upon a foundation consisting of good relationships. Coach to player, coach to coach, and organization to athletes and coaches, are all-important aspects of a team’s make up. However, perhaps the most important factor is team chemistry.

Though I’m sure Toronto Raptors coach Dwayne Casey would love to be able to concoct a magic potion to create an athletic utopia at the Air Canada Centre, the creation of good team chemistry – or the existence of its bad-blooded counterpart – comes to fruition in the form of a delicate balance that is difficult to master in the best of circumstances. The sports world is a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of place, and team chemistry can heavily impact whether players keep their jobs, coaches stay off the leadership carousel, and general managers manage to maintain their names on the doors of their offices.

But, I know you are thirsting to learn how to create such exquisite camaraderie. Saskatoon Goldfins Swim Club coach and athlete Taylor Eagle says it’s all about concentrating on goals.

“It’s important that the focus stay on the improvement of yourself and others in practice and at swim meets. It’s not always about coming in first. I like to use the phrase “personal best” a lot. The kids are excited for one another, not because they beat someone, but because they did the very best that they could do, and now they have a new goal to strive towards. This helps squash any of the animosity between teammates by giving them something else to focus on, rather than who they beat, or who beat them,” says Cougar wrestler Connor Malloy on the subject of what creates good chemistry. “I think understanding people’s capabilities and having them held accountable to this expectation is important. I suppose also understanding the best way to hold people accountable is key, too.”

Aside from accountability and goal setting, there is another large factor in this equation, the sport environment that individual disciplines present.

The team dynamic in a sport like basketball or football is inherently different from that of a wrestling or swimming team, a situation that demands a team performance which is made up of individual athletes’ levels of production that are separate from each other.

As Eagle highlights, “Swimming, at the end of the day, is an individual sport. If you swim poorly, unfortunately that is your problem, not the fault of the team. Bad team chemistry can become an issue when the competitiveness of your athletes outweighs the desire to see others do well.”

Wrestler Malloy agrees, saying that “because of the individual aspect of wrestling team chemistry can be very fragmented with pockets of strong cohesion that may cooperate or even conflict with other pockets within the same team, both can potentially have a positive effect on the team performance.”

That’s quite a balancing act.

And people wonder why Mark Jackson is no longer behind the bench at Golden State.

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