One of the most important steps to coaching your next season is building your team. This is the first step in the process of the season, and it is fundamental to the success of an organization. This is your team. You will spend a great deal of time with your team members, and you want to make sure you pick the right group. Not to mention, there is a great deal of emotion on both sides as team selection plays out.
There is a lot more to picking a team than picking the best players. It is very easy to be mesmerized by talent, but there is more than just assembling talent in assembling a successful team.
“A common mistake in forming teams is to assume that people who have all the technical skills necessary to solve a problem also have the interpersonal skills necessary to work together effectively,” – J. Richard Hackman in Teams That Work (and Those That Don’t).
There are so many variables to consider, but here are six considerations to think about when building your team.
What Do You Value?
Your team is an extension of your organization, and as a result, you need to find team members that have similar values to your own. You must understand what you value in a player before you can understand how you would like to build your team. This covers areas like style of play, skill sets, and intangible characteristics. Understand that team selection is a two-way street. Not only do you have to find members who are aligned with your organization’s core values, but future team members need to decide if your organization is right for them. Both parties must be on board for proper collaboration to take place. It is not worth trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
Identify a Leader(s)
You will need someone (or a core group) to share your message and be your voice in the room. The leader does not have to be the best player on the team. In many cases, the leader of the group possesses all of the intangible characteristics. When your leader is a combination of physical skills and intangibles, you have stumbled into an ideal scenario. This leader will have an uncanny ability to get other team members to buy what they are selling. They will push team members through the tough times and keep them focused and grounded during the successes of the season. Most importantly, the leader will have a thumb on the pulse of the team and be able to share information with the coaches in a mature manner. Stick close to this person as he is your culture driver.
Attitude and Work Ethic
I would place attitude and work ethic above talent in many cases. Ideally, every coach would like a player with the right attitude and talent, but those players are sometimes hard to find. Every team member has a glitch somewhere, but this is an area where you would like to hit on every member of the team. It can be a long season with ups and downs. There will be success and failure. Team members with the right attitude and work ethic can help get through the challenges of the year. More importantly, players with a positive attitude can bring other players along when they are struggling. Be cautious of the talented player with a poor attitude. Being a team member requires discipline, respect, trust, and a commitment to putting the team success before their own. If your team members do not have the right attitude and work ethic, you are in for a long, disappointing season.
It goes without saying that each team member needs to possess the fundamental skills necessary to perform the tasks of the sport. Although we understand that each player will possess skills at varying levels, there is a minimum expectation to allow selection. However, many coaches make this the primary part of their selection process when in reality, it is one of many criteria.
I’m not looking for the best players, Craig. I’m looking for the right ones. – Herb Brooks in Miracle
Each coach should develop a checklist of skills that are necessary to assembling a winning team. Ideally, you want to find a team member who can check off multiple skills on the list, but we can’t expect every team member to possess the same exact skill set. Some will be better at some skills and weaker in others. You want to find team members that will compliment each other. Finding a player with great size and speed can be difficult as everyone is looking for that player. However, finding a player with size and finding another player with speed is much easier. Goal scorers need play makers around them. These player can compliment each other in-game situations.
Character falls into most of the intangible categories in this list, but it can’t be stressed enough. I believe that teams with character may not always win, but they will be successful when it matters most. You can’t build a team with character without finding players with character. If you are going through the checklist, you want to put a check next to every member of the group. I have been doing this for over 20 years, and I have learned through experience that players who do not posses character never come through for you when you need them. You may be able to work with them and get stretches of great work from them, but they cannot sustain through the long haul. These players will ultimately let your team down.
The challenge is that character is hard to spot. You must get to know your players and understand how they will perform when nobody is looking. Will they take shortcuts? Will they work harder? Are they interested in their teammates success? Do they treat other people well? Do they show respect for teammates, opponents, referees and coaches? How will they respond when the chips are down? If you haven’t spent much time with a prospective team member, it will be hard to gauge after a day or two of evaluations. You must do some digging and investigating to find out the answer to these questions.
Every team member has a role regardless of the size of the group. We are not looking to find 20 clones in our team. Creating an environment where members can be aligned and unique is a difficult balancing act. In the end, if you surround yourself with good people and provide good leadership, the rest tends to work itself out.