In sport there are four main components to performance; physical, technical, tactical and psychological. Ideally in preseason each aspect will be addressed and trained to ensure the players are fully prepared for the upcoming season. Although, unfortunately it is often typical for the physical, technical and tactical factors to be prioritized over psychological aspects as they can more easily and actively be improved on the field in what is considered “normal” training.
To combat this trend, I wish to emphasize just how influential psychology based meetings can be. In particular, how simple discussions about goals, personalities and expectations could help to mold a positive, productive and enjoyable team atmosphere – a factor that may make a vital difference.
A team can simply be defined as “a group of individuals that work together to achieve a common goal” but in more detail that definition can be divided into three distinct factors; a group of individuals, working together and a common goal. Each factor should be considered and addressed in preseason to ensure all team members have a comprehensive understanding of each other, the expectations and the targets. The ideal setting in which to conduct these conversations are in open and inclusive discussion style meetings. Below I will emphasize the importance of each topic and suggest some potential methods to address them:
1. “A group of individuals”
No two members of a team are the same; each person has their own opinions, behaviours, attitudes and preferences. Recognising individuality and identifying how each member can most effectively benefit the team will increase the chances of success. This can be done through completing a personality test, for example the DISC assessment, which provides an overview of a person’s influential characteristics. This can act as a good basis on which to begin open discussions; each team members can expand upon his or her results and reveal their typical personality traits. Through these conversations players will learn and develop an understanding of how to best converse, train and play with their teammates and this will help bring together the group of individuals to form a successful team.
2. “Working together”
Cohesion is a vital factor in a team environment but it is not something that can be forced or even guaranteed. However, providing an ideal environment for team cohesion to naturally develop can be achieved. By holding open, all equal, all inclusive style discussions, where topics like team values, expectations, goals and attitudes can be addressed, players are likely to feel a greater sense of belonging. As well, if all team members are actively involved in important conversations, rather than just being told about already agreed standards, they will be more inclined to hold themselves accountable and responsible for their actions. Creating and setting team philosophies and expectations together is beneficial as it generates productive communication from the outset, encourages team work and it has the ability to naturally increase team cohesion.
3. “Common Goal”
An overpowering goal of sport is often just to win, however the vital component of being able to achieve that target is to successfully complete the many steps along the way – in other words to complete process. Especially in a team sport, there can be many ups and downs throughout a game or season but the key is for each player to understand that those instances are all part of the process. If this can be achieved and team members can build upon or resolve those influential factors as they happen, with their focus always on the ultimate goal, then the chances of success will increase. Discussions should be held to identify the ultimate goal and the steps required to get there, each player should be clear on their role in achieving these and should be motivated to complete them to the best of their ability. Doing this should allow all the team members to understand the dedication, commitment, compromise, teamwork and focus required to successfully complete the process and make progress towards the achieving the common goal.
In conclusion, addressing the psychological aspect of team sports in an open, all inclusive manor can be beneficial for team success and it should not be overlooked in preparation for the upcoming season. Amongst other elements it is important to focus on benefiting from individuality, on teamwork and on the process of achieving a common goal as they can all enhance team cohesion and ultimately improve on-field performance – potentially making that small difference between an average and a successful season.