What is the overall effect of an extraordinary event on a single team? The death of Alexei Cherepanov during a game triggered an eight-game slide for Avangard Omsk in the K. The Superbowl champion New York Giants lost four of their last five games after receiver Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. Teams can collapse when a key player is suspended or experiences a breakdown on the court.
Yet other teams rally together when they experience a critical injury. What is the difference between a positive and a negative outcome in the face of adversity? A lot of a team’s success under difficult circumstances is determined by how the team was put together in the first place.
“Hard Work”: Coaches should clearly define the team goals at the beginning of the season and secure player buy-in. If a player can confidently answer the question “why am I here?” and “what is this all for?”, they are more likely to persevere during the tough times. Team progress will improve before, during, and after adversity.
“Family”: There will be different relationships among different team members and coaches should ensure that they remain positive. Evaluating the team chemistry – how teammates communicate and support each other – can help a coach spot problems ahead of time. Questions to ask are “where could we communicate better?” or “how we help each other succeed more?” It may be necessary to intervene or make time for a team building activity before small conflicts escalate. Athletic success (or success in any field) is strongly linked to how an athlete interacts with their environment.
Pushing each other and pulling together are attributes of a successful team. A team may still experience a shock in the face of a surprise but the players are better able to continue when everyone is on the same page. Creating the support mechanism before they are needed results in better results and less stress for all involved.