Cricket doesn’t need perfect teamwork to win games, but it certainly helps and is certainly a goal worth striving for. Here are some tips.
Teamwork is a tricky thing. It’s not easy to measure or analyse. There is no direct relationship between a bonded team and success. Different approaches work for different groups. It’s messy.
There is no simple template for a great team.
Nevertheless, there are some things that help bond a team together in the right way (that is to say, helping to win more games of cricket). So let’s take a whistle-stop tour of this complex world and give you some practical ways to improve your team.
Focus on the job
Teams can be great in two ways: socially and through cricket. While the two are linked, you can certainly have one without the other. We all know the terrible teams that are famous for their after-match hospitality, and the one who smash all-comers but barely speak to each other off the pitch.
If you want a team who are good on the pitch first, then focus on the task first too.
You might also want to be social, and have plenty of banter. That’s great, it’s a crucial part of cricket: You can blend both and still win games, but the buddy-buddy atmosphere always comes after actually doing the job.
So, how do you do that?
- Know your role in the team, and know the role of others. Be as clear as you can about who is supposed to do what, and trust that they will do it.
- If someone struggles to do their job, work together to help that person improve until they can do it well. Never blame someone for failing, always ask how you can help turn it around.
- Focus on things you can control to improve. Never make excuses about umpiring, conditions or things out of your control as a reason to hide. Instead, ask what more you need to do to improve.
One thing that helps a lot of people to focus on roles is clear stats targets. For example, you might ask a middle overs bowler to keep the run rate down, give them a target of dot balls to bowl and work with them to develop this skill through improving accuracy.
This way everyone knows what everyone else is doing, can see if it is working or not, then work together to fix any issues.
Improve or prove?
One of the big pitfalls of a task focus is that it encourages people to constantly try and prove themselves against each other in the team. When you net you are desperate to do well and terrified of failing. When you walk out to bat you pray not to do anything stupid today in case others judge your ability.
As you have already realised, the problem with this mentality is that it puts you under pressure to succeed. If you fail you are not good enough. It makes you blame yourself and discourages you. Why try if you are not good enough?
For that matter, why try if you are already too good? Isn’t trying too hard a sign of someone who isnt a natural talent anyway?
Good teams are built on a different mentality: They are focused on improving each other rather than proving how good they are.
This is a far better long term plan because you don’t have to rely on star players with exceptional ability. You are instead slowly building up everyone’s strengths and - over time - becoming a more honed unit.
(Studies have show that most sports teams need about five years together to bond well.)
Of course, let’s not undermine star players. They make immediate and clear impacts on a team with runs and wickets. They might win trophies with sheer talent.
But if they leave after a year or two, what then?
None of your existing team has grown. The old members might even have left as they try to prove themselves against the expectional standards of the departing star and realise they are not up to scratch. You end up in a far worse position unless you keep bringing in new stars.
But here’s the clever thing, you can have stars and focus on growth if you so it right.
So, wherever you are now, focus on growing each other together as a team,
- Use training to try new things, fail at them and enjoy the challenge of overcoming them.
- Spend time working towards improving others. Individuals have unique views and strengths and there is always something you can do to help a team mate.
- Set the highest possible standards and don’t accept anything less from each other than the hardest you can try.
- Stamp hard on excuses and refocus on the task.
- Know that losing games or performing poorly is not proof of your talent individually or as a team. If you lose, work out why. Then, get to work stopping it happening again by removing the flaw.
Good teams have an infectious enthusiasm and enjoy their success.
Really good teams also are enthusiastic about dealing with the bad as much as enjoying the success. That’s the difference between proving and improving.
Own your disagreements
There is no such thing as a perfectly harmonious team. Every side, top of the league or wooden spoon holders, has conflicts.
It’s so pervasive, and so different in intensity between teams that there is no relationship between winning and harmony. That said, one common trait between successful teams is their ability to not let conflicts get in the way of the task.
And that’s the secret to dealing with disagreements.
If you argue like cats and dogs, but walk out onto the field and all do your job to the highest standard, you will be successful.
If you can barely exchange words in the changing rooms but leave everything behind at the door and go to training, give each other throw downs, offer technical advice and do every crazy fielding drill the coach offers with passion and effort, you will be successful.
If you never have an argument, but are unclear on your roles and train to prove rather than improve, you are on a road to failure.
Naturally, these are the extremes. Most teams get along well most of the time. Every team has at least the odd conflict too. The trick is knowing the impact of the fight on the team.
Most of the time, the simple answer is to deal with it individually. You might disagree over something, but it’s not having an impact on the team so accept it, move on and remember life and people are rich, complex, wonderful and infuriating all at once.
If it’s more than that, weigh up the cost against the benefit.
Perhaps you have a player who takes a big bunch of wickets every year but also turns up late, dislikes the captain’s tactical decisions and refuses to help others in training. Others in the team grumble about their special dispensation because of their ability on the pitch. That player is causing an issue.
The player is certainly focused on the task and are doing an important job for the team. They are also not stopping anyone else do their job. No problem there. People just need to stop grumbling and accept that’s what you may get with some characters.
Naturally, you can try and help the player understand that being on time is important, but you also dont want to turn it into a distracting battle of egos.
More concerning is the mindest at training. If you don’t help others grow, you are negatively impacting on the team. Perhaps not in the short term, but these things eventually come out. It’s here a good team will find that unacceptable. The coach, captain, senior players or all of the above need to quickly work with the player to get to the root of the problem and find a way to help them become more helpful at sessions.
It may even take a simple word from the captain, “come on mate, you have had a long bowl, how about you give Jim some throwdowns for 10 minutes to help him out. You’ll appreciate it when you have better scores to bowl at!”
The point is this; pick your battles carefully based on the good of the task, and not the social or ego-based factors.
- Success does not require team work, but it helps.
- Good teams are task focused
- Good teams have a growth mindset
- Team harmony is impossible, so accept some conflict and pick your battles.