Typically, the more experienced team that you have returning, the greater your chance for success. There is continuity among team members that have worked together…. a quarterback working with receivers, a center working with adjacent guards, long snappers working with holders working with kickers… etc.
But it is the nature of the game that each year one class moves on (graduates) and another “new” class of players joins the team. Top tier programs will graduate most of their starters at the end of each season. Maybe the best way to keep continuity in your program is not looking at the experience of your returning players, but concentrating on the joint experience of your coaching staff.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Robert Huckman (Harvard Business School) and Bradley Staats (University of North Carolina) cite evidence from a number of different fields that team performance improves when team members work together over time. “Team familiarity – the amount of experience individuals have working with one another – can influence how a group performs,” say Huckman and Staats. In most cases, the less team turnover, the better the results.
We know, perhaps only anecdotally, that this is the case with our coaching staffs. Huckman and Staats examine why… specifically five key factors. I have seen evidence of each of these factors on high functioning coaching staffs that I have been a part of:
Coordinating activities – Teams whose members have different specialties are sometimes inefficient because of poor communication, conflict, and confusion. “Members new to each other simply don’t understand when and how to communicate,” say Huckman and Staats. “Familiarity can help a group overcome this obstacle; once a team has learned when and how to communicate on one project, it can carry those skills over to the next.”
Learning where expertise lies – Each individual brings knowledge to the team’s task, but it takes time to learn who has useful information.
Responding to change – Teams have to respond to changing circumstances and new demands, and familiarity provides a common platform from which members can adapt and meet new demands.
Integrating knowledge to innovate – “Innovative solutions typically come from new combinations of existing knowledge,” say Huckman and Staats. “Because familiarity helps team members share information and communicate effectively, it makes them more likely to integrate knowledge and come up with coherent, innovative solutions.”
Staff continuity is critical, but not always an easy thing to accomplish.
I want coaches on my staff that aspire to be coordinators and head coaches. I have been fortunate to have some great assistants that have worked with me in the past. The difficult thing,then, becomes keeping them… they are constantly being poached away. Position coaches becoming coordinators and coordinators becoming head coaches.
This leads to the final key factor cited by Huckman and Staats:
Capturing value – In a stable, cohesive team, “Each member’s performance is dependent on that of the others,” say Huckman and Staats. This means the loss of an individual won’t do grievous harm to the productivity of the group. It’s also possible that a valuable employee considering another job offer might decide to stay because of the warm embrace of the team.
So, possibly one of the best ways to keep a high functioning team (coaching staff) together is to consistently recognize the value of your teammates (coaches).
How are you presently doing this with your staff? Do you make it hard for a staff member to take another job because they feel the “warm embrace of the team”?
Tomorrow more about staff continuity and how some championship programs accomplish it.
Remember – You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!
Jeff Floyd – firstname.lastname@example.org