Yesterday, Sussex clinched the County Championship ahead of bigger rivals Lancashire. Considering the side finished dead last in 1997, the team have become a case study in how to win league cricket: Something which all club sides can learn from.
Captain Chris Adams puts it down to teamwork (although Mushtaq Ahmed's 102 wickets may have helped too). While we don't know exactly how they did it, we can look at the clues and come up with some ways club sides can follow the lead of successful teams.
Sussex had incredible team spirit. It enabled them to fight back when they were wobbling this season. But spirit is an elusive thing. You know when you have it but can you say you know how you got it?
Research has been done into team 'cohesion'. The best sides not only understand what needs to be done and agree on the way to do it (task cohesion), they also get on with each other as people (social cohesion).
If a team has these in place they can, as a unit, be better than the sum of their parts. In business double-speak: they have synergy.
The Importance of Roles
Synergy can only be found if everyone is aware of roles. For example, Sussex knew opener Richard Montgomerie would see off the new ball well enough for the destructive middle order to smack it around. Meanwhile Mushtaq took the strike bowler role.
Everyone in your team should know what their job is too.
But roles extend beyond this:
- Your team need to know the overall team goals for the season. Without a framework they don't know how their role fits into the bigger picture.
- Players need to accept the role they have been given or they will not fill them. So take the time to speak to players and be ready to discuss alternatives if needed.
- Team members need to know and accept other player's roles.
- Players need to feel they are performing in that role. Be ready to review this and change it if the results are not coming.
A regular team meeting (even if it is 5 minutes before play on Saturday) combined with individual one to one chats should be enough to make these things clear. Ideally you will have longer team meetings so everyone can discuss openly the team goals and individual roles: but in the end, everyone's job must be clear.
Other Team Building Tips
Once everyone knows what everyone is doing, you are over halfway to building a team. What will get you the rest of the way?
In all honesty, some groups come together better than others no matter what you try. It's that magical extra element that can often remain elusive, but you can encourage it:
- Non-Cricket Activities. Australia had a boot camp, your side may prefer to get drunk together. The Aussies method might be better for fitness but the outcome for the team is the same: everyone getting on a little better.
- Develop Pride. Find out what makes players proud to play for the team and encourage it. It might be something as simple as giving everyone a club cap and jumper.
- Delegate. Involve team members in picking their team goals, leaders and roles
- Encourage Responsibility. If star players are making sacrifices for the side and rivalry is friendly then you are on the right track. Aim to stamp out the opposite.
Of course, the difficult part is getting it to gel together perfectly. It took Sussex 6 seasons to go from bottom to top.
That said, you can be sure that if Chris Adams reads this he will recognise a lot of these elements in his Sussex side. It's a formula for success that has worked over the years for many cricket teams, and can help your club get more wickets, runs and league wins.