Team Unity

By Katie Reed, 1/25/17

Whitworth men’s basketball team huddle together during a time out.

The life of an athlete is a tiring one. Fierce conditioning, repetitive drills, healthy eating, proper sleeping and much more make up the success of an athlete. Athletes must take care of themselves and their bodies in order to perform their best.

If each athlete is individually working on him or herself, what makes a successful team? A new answer to that question has been trending within athletics the past few years: team bonding.

The Success of Cohesive Teams

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Prior to that success, however, the last World Series they won was in 1954. Team cohesion was the number one attribute to the sudden pattern of wins.

An article by Forbes explained how general manager Bruce Bochy created an atmosphere of “inclusion and camaraderie.” Bochy said in the article that he encouraged players to aim high individually and to expect to see their teammates achieve high goals.

“We bought into something you don’t see happen very often; we bought into playing for each other. We bought into loving playing for each other,” Giants player Hunter Pence said after the 2012 World Series. The Giants have relatively kept the same players throughout those years, drawing a sense of unity and community.

Another example of a team with success through cohesion is Coach Cristal Brown’s Whitworth softball team. Since Brown started coaching the Whitworth Pirates in 2010, team records have improved every year. The Pirates won their conference back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016.

“You can take a team full of the best softball ability, but if they don’t like each other, especially with females, then often times they will not play well,” Brown said.

Brown has set team values that she discusses with her players before the season. She said she expects players to be intentional with one another and to root for every teammate. Team values create a culture, and a culture creates a sense of unity.

Benefits of Bonded Teams

Sports improve more than just an athlete’s physical abilities. The game constantly challenges a player’s mentality, but it also builds character.

“The benefit for us is that [players] are learning to build those relationships and they’ll carry the skills and value of being intentional with other people throughout their lives,” Brown said.

Working well with others will aid in nearly all areas of life. For example, Common Core involves more group conversations and projects in the class. It is training the students to communicate and work with a group of people. Similarly, forming intentional relationships with players will teach athletes how to create relationships in other team settings, such as future jobs.

Whitworth’s cheer team performing together during half-time performance.

“Team bonding” activities

There is controversy about whether or not team-bonding activities are beneficial in creating a cohesive team.

Some coaches believe it is the best strategy to commence new relationships within a team. Others believe forced interaction leads to resentment.

“Team bonding activities help but they are not foolproof or guarantee. It must be a daily unintentional action by the team to come together,” said Toby Schwarz, sports psychology professor and coach at Whitworth University.

Schwarz says that a simple bonding trip won’t do the trick. The team must actively choose to participate with one another. The coaches can only do so much.

“I think we try to team bond every day,” Brown said. “We try to create an atmosphere where it’s always bonding.”

Team unity is a strong weapon for any team to have. It will aid in the success, and cushion the loss.

“My team always has my back,” said senior Whitworth softball player Shannon Wessel. “The more I care about my teammates, the more I want to work hard for them and not let them down.”

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