Team Unity and How To Improve It

Team unity, also known as culture, is the glue that sticks together the members of sporting teams so that they work together and not against each other.

Does your team work together or are you just a group of individuals?

It may come as a surprise to some readers that one of the aspects of performance we a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work with is team unity. Known more commonly by many other names such as culture, team cohesion and team chemistry team unity essentially describes all the little factors that can result in some sporting team being completely unified whilst others can resemble the boys from the famous novel The Lord of the Flies.

The first point to accept when it comes to team unity is that the chances of it being organically excellent are very, very unlikely. In other words, the culture of most sporting teams, even the professional ones, is typically not that flash. The second factor is that regardless of the current state of your team’s culture is can be improved. That’s right, if it’s currently poor it can be bettered and if it’s already excellent it can still be improved further.

How Is Team Unity Best Improved In Sporting Teams?

Well, the best way but also the most costly is to engage the services of a qualified sport or performance psychologist who has helped hundreds of teams to improve their culture already. I can’t speak for all sports psychologists but certainly, at Condor Performance the way we go about this is reasonably simple. We work mainly with the coaches so that we make ourselves redundant. As the CEO of a business or the principle of a school, one of the main jobs of the coach of a sporting team is to unify the team and them keep them unified.

The problem is, most of them (90%) attempt to go this delicate work underequipped. This results in millions of well-intended coaches around the world doing an average job of this key component of performance.

So we work with the coaches, ideally one-on-one and put what we call The 10 R’s under the microscope. The 10 R’s refers to five pairs of words that each start with the letter R that tend to provide most of the clues about how to improve the unity of any given team.

Roles and Rules

It is virtually impossible for a team to be unified if the individual members are not clear about their role and what the rules or expectations of the team are. If these can be established clearly during the offseason it can go a long way to helping make sure the team remains together during the highs and the lows of the season coming up. 

Relationships and Respect

It is important to mention that the members of a team don’t actually need to be the best of friends – in fact, they don’t even really have to like one another. But they do need to respect one another. Mutual respect tends to result from teams whereby cliques are not allowed to form. In other words, there is some kind of relationship between all members of the team. 

Reassurance and Reasons

Maybe more for the coaches but important nonetheless is the art of giving frequent reassurance and reasons to the playing group. Humans are not mind-readers, if you feel they’re doing a great job then let them know. If on the other hand you – as their coach – are not that happy with something then explain why you’re not staffed as well as how to improve it.

Ready and Relaxed

There is a huge furphy (furphy is an Australian slang word for an erroneous or improbable story that is claimed to be factual) in elite sport that one of the best ways to help the members of a team to come together is by helping them win more. This is like putting the cart before the horse. In actual fact, one of the best ways is to help them prepare very well and feel relaxed and confidence come game time.

Recognition and Rewards

In sports, the obvious wins are often too obvious. In other words, there really is no need to celebrate winning the league or going the entire season undefeated. I am a much greater believer in recognising and celebrating the less obvious wins. What about the time that your teammate smashes her PB on the Beep Test or when all of you are able to attend training without anyone having an injury concern. Not only do teams with a strong culture recognise these smaller milestones but they’ll often reward them more than the obvious ones.

If your sporting team is only a tight budget and you’d like to learn more about The R’s then sign up for free to our online Mental Toughness training program – Metuf. If, on the other hand, you have some funds to spend on performance consider contacting us at info@condorperformance.com with the details of your sporting team and one of our psychologists will be in touch to explain who we can assist with factors such as team unity.

Author: Gareth J. Mole

Gareth J. Mole is an endorsed Sport and Exercise Psychologist. He is the founder of Condor Performance and co-creator of Metuf™. He lives between Canberra and Sydney (Australia) with his wife, their two children and their fourteen chickens.

2 thoughts on “Team Unity and How To Improve It”

  1. Another great article from you guys – thanks. I really like the way you have taken something potentially very complex and simplified it with the Rs. One R that was missing which is also related to team unity and mental toughness is Reliability – no? If all the members of a sporting team can learn to rely on one another that will surely be a good thing?

    1. Thanks, Sandra. Yes, we’re certainly not suggesting that boosting team unity is limited to the 10 R’s we use in our team building work as performance psychologists. Having said that though, each of these 10 concepts has at least one major peer-reviewed journal article that supports it. Of course, we have used a little creative freedom to make sure that each starts with the letter R – to help with remembering – but to my knowledge, there have not yet been any major studies in sports psychology on the impact of Reliability.

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