Tag Archives: coaching

The Great Mystery in Team Sports

In my roughly 25 years of playing sports I’ve been on many teams in several sports, but few of them had what most call “chemistry” (also called “teamwork”). Team chemistry is difficult to achieve, and I think most athletes would agree that it is required to win championships. Here are some of the best thoughts that I’ve found on the topic:

– “The best players don’t necessarily make the best team.” – John Wooden, Coach of UCLA men’s basketball

– “Great players rarely work well together, and are more effective with players of complementary and subservient skills.” – Ken Dryden, professional hockey goaltender

– “A championship team needs all kinds of players. Too many players of the same type, no matter how good, make a team vulnerable.” – Scotty Bowman, professional hockey coach

– “Some people believe you win with the five best players, but I found out that you win with the five who fit together best.”  – Red Auerbach, professional basketball coach

– “Teamwork is taught. You don’t just lump a group of people together in a room and call them a team and expect them to behave like one.” – Pat Summit, University of Tennessee coach

– “I’m a great believer that humour’s the lubricant that helps teams create chemistry.” – Dave King, professional hockey coach

– “One of the real mysteries of any team sport is how chemistry develops. It’s usually such an elusive, mercurial thing; it comes unexpectedly and can leave abruptly. For years, coaches and sports psychologists have analyzed, dissected, and theorized about chemistry. Many conclude that you can orchestrate its development within your team. Chemistry generally evolves on a day-by-day basis. I’d suggest some team-building activities can assist the process. At practice, during games, in the dressing room, on the bus or plane, at team meals and meetings – these are the moments when the chemistry is percolating.” – Dave King, professional hockey coach

The recent NBA finalists The Miami Heat had talent, LeBron James (see image below), Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh (the best three) but lacked team chemistry, and were beaten by a team having less talent but better chemistry, The Dallas Mavericks.


Bringing Out an Athlete’s Personal Best

The best coaches I’ve had in my life: 1. My father Terry Peters (baseball) 2. Phil Cousineau (elementary school basketball) 3. Mary Jane Kiraga (high school volleyball) 4. Mrs. Jerry Brown (high school cross country running). And, no, I don’t believe I’ve made a biased decision ranking my father my best coach. He coached us to a championship victory without benching weaker players, and deserves the accolade. Unfortunately, apart from the 4 above the rest have been weak. I believe that many coaches make the mistake of trying to live out their winning aspirations through the teams they coach, instead of focusing on developing better players. This usually leads to the infamous bench-the-weak-players tactic, which repels many young players from sport. In his book The Only Way I Know, famous baseball player Cal Ripken said that he (and his father) believes there is too much emphasis on winning in youth sports, and not enough emphasis on player development and having fun. That’s been my experience. In fairness to those coaches, I don’t think most have been properly trained (nor certified) for the role.

The best book I’ve read on coaching is John Wooden’s My Personal Best. Kareem Abdul Jabar, the famous center for the L.A. Lakers and player of Wooden’s, said that Wooden never focused on winning, but said that winning would come as a result of trying to be your best. He said that if you’ve played your best, you’re a success regardless of what the score says. I like that philosophy because it changes the focus of sports from just winning to something more important: becoming your best. And it’s also a good answer to the question: What is the meaning of life? Before you dismiss Wooden’s philosophy as lame, keep in mind that he coached 10 teams to NCAA championship victories in a 12-year span, and was named national coach of the year 6 times.