Studies have shown that footballers pass the ball to their friends more than less liked team members. Even if the latter player is in a better position. The real shock is that this can still happen at professional level.
The conclusion? Cliques are not good if you want a successful team.
It's common in cricket too. Reader Warren recently commented about a divide between the 1st XI and 2nd XI in his club leading to players not wanting to be selected for the higher level!
You can see how this causes a problem on the field.
The secret is trust
Almost every issue with a team not bonded together boils down to trust. If there is no trust there is no team cohesion.
For example, new players coming into teams are not trusted by existing players to do the job. Especially if a popular member has been dropped for them.
Trust is such a strong factor that players who clash personalities off the pitch can perform well together as long as they trust each other's ability on the pitch.
However this can be difficult to achieve, especially in a squad of players who don't play together every game.
How do you build up trust?
The key is the captain, who has several important jobs to do to ensure players trust one another.
1. Be fair and consistent
Our sense of fair play is highly tuned. If we feel someone in the team is getting unfair treatment we will not trust that person. We might feel someone is in the team on reputation, or friendships with influential people. Mostly this feeling remains unspoken, or murmured in quiet corners, building distrust.
It's difficult for captains and coaches to be fair because players may often have different values, experiences and expectations through which they interpret what they believe is fair.
You may have a dour blocker in your team who has opened the batting for years. Younger players might start to wonder why he is in the side. You know he always sees off the better bowlers with the new ball so the stroke makers can score quickly later on. He has a vital role.
While everyone may not agree, as long as they understand they will consider it fair. Everyone on the team must understand their own and everyone else's roles so trust and fairness is developed.
2. Avoid blame and foster loyalty
When something goes wrong it's easy to assign blame. Players who did not get runs or wickets can be accused of costing the team. Trust can never be built on blame. A successful team culture is built on sharing responsibility as a team rather than creating factions within it.
The captain has a key role here. He or she must be supportive of every member of the team to set the example. A few words of encouragement after a dropped catch or golden duck can make a huge difference to the feeling of trust in a team.
It's much easier to avoid blame if your team is winning. The real test is when your side is losing games. If senior players show loyalty at this point you will be able to build trust and gel the team together.
3. Recognise success
It's equally easy to ignore success because the person has done what you expect them to do. A team where every success is recognised naturally builds up trust.
This recognition depends on the team and the individual involved so needs to be adaptable. Some players expect nothing but a knowing nod from the skipper. Others are not satisfied with anything less than the entire side applauding their skills in a formal presentation of a large trophy.
It takes time to find out how much praise each individual needs and giving them that without upsetting other members of the team. This is another delicate balance for captains. If you get it right players will trust each other more because they see their team mates doing the job.
If these three elements of fairness, loyalty and recognition can be brought together your team will start to gel together successfully, even when others come in.
One way to create an environment like this is to set the ground rules of the team, agreed by every member. This can be as in depth or brief as you like, but anyone who could possibly be involved should help decide.
Rules could include:
- Individuals look to themselves before blaming others.
- Everyone has a job to do, recognise when others are doing it well.
- Team members will always defend the team to outsiders.
- All failures are considered team failures, not individual ones.
- Success is always recognised and shared.
- When one person fails, another team member must take responsibility to make up the slack.
- Team member will never indulge in gossip or back biting.
- Recognise we all make mistakes and put them aside when they happen.
It's also important to do as much as possible to foster trust between team players. There are many ways to do this including making sure everyone in a squad train together, team nights out and regular team meetings. While these are not essential elements, the more you can do the more chance you have of success.
However, there are times when all these tricks and tactics still don't foster the key elements of fairness, loyalty and recognition.
It's at these times you probably need to start looking for difficult individuals within a team or squad.
In part 2 we look at how you deal with some of the common difficult people you come across in a cricket team. Click here to go there now.
Photo credit: Fenners1984