Building Great Teams Part 1

This article was written and submitted by retired High School Coach Dave Millhollin. I am always looking for good information to share. If you have an article, drill, play, or anything else that you would like to have posted on the Coaching Toolbox, feel free to contact me.

Building Great Teams Part 1

By Dave Millhollin

Editor’s note: This is part One of Two parts for this article. I will have part 2 posted soon.

Over the last two decades, much attention has been given to the concept of “Team Building” by private, public, and volunteer organizations. In all situations where groups of people are necessary to produce a product, generate revenue, or provide services, the groups that work best together and possess a sense of shared common purpose tend to be the most effective and efficient.

Our program’s approach to “Team Building”

We have established four fundamental reasons for team building:

• First, we want the experience of participating on the team to be the most satisfying and enjoyable experience it can possibly be for every individual member of the team.

• Secondly, we want each individual member of our team to experience as much personal growth as possible in the context of being a member of our team.

• Thirdly, participating on a team affords the members of that team to form meaningful and lasting relationships. The relationships we develop while participating on teams can be wonderful and life-long.

• The fourth reason for team building is to ensure that our team is as competitive as it can possibly be; that we play the absolute best basketball that we are capable of playing, win as many games as we can, compete for championships and advance as far as we are capable of in post season play.

We promote the concept of “cause over self” and profess that individual achievement will be accomplished through the giving of one’s self to the goals and welfare of the team. Therefore, unselfishness and self sacrifice are two of our program’s core values.

Building the “Team”

Leadership by the coaching staff

As adult leaders we determine what kind of program we want to run. While at Ponderosa, we decided to involve our players in as much of the decision making as possible. We want to achieve the highest degree of “ownership” and commitment as possible and we want our players to be accountable to one another and to their coaches with regard to the standards we set for our program. As coaches we see our primary responsibility as that of helping our players establish realistic goals and expectations, then doing everything in our power to help them achieve those goals and expectations.

Collaboration, “Ownership”, and Commitment

Prior to and at the beginning of the season, we conduct a series of meetings where our players and coaches engage in discussions and come to agreements on almost every aspect of our program. We clarify our values and our behavioral expectations and we discuss and agree on consequences. We agree on the role of the coach and the role of the players. We also discuss and agree on what we want to accomplish during the season. These desired accomplishments are written in two areas; season goals and progressive benchmarks. The progressive benchmarks provide us with a checklist of things we want to accomplish as the season goes along, this helps us progressively evaluate our performance and identify necessary adjustments as the season moves along.

As the season gets underway we also develop an identity statement that epitomizes the kind of team we want to have for that season. One season our team decided on the slogan; “Belief, Trust, Discipline and Unselfishness”.
We want all of our actions to reflect our identity statement.

The overall purpose for the collaboration process is to bring about a sense of ownership and develop a strong sense of responsibility and commitment by the members of our team. We will then be better able to hold one another accountable during the course of the season

Players are accountable to each other, not just to their coach. They live up to a set of standards and attempt to accomplish goals that they help develop, not ones imposed upon them by authority figures.

Individual Roles

Once we have established our goals for the season and discover our team’s identity, our coaches then work with each individual player to establish individual player roles. We base these roles on the specific attributes each player has in relation to the team’s goals. We have each player answer a set of questions designed to help them recognize what they can do to help the team achieve its goals. This part of the team building process is critical. If we can get every player on our team to align his personal goals with the goals of the team and establish his role on the team accordingly, then we will have a much better chance of having a great team. This is where unselfishness and personal self sacrifice for the goals and welfare of the team comes in to play.

For a player who would like to have a different role, we allow him to work on the areas he would like to improve on in practice so he will have a chance to change his role. This comes with the understanding that first and foremost he must be focused on and be committed to his initial role. If his role is to change, he and his coach must agree on that change in order for the change to take place.

Once we establish individual player roles, we have each player write down three to five things they can personally commit to that will help the team achieve its goals. This commitment list is a reflection of each player’s individual role. We require all of our players to become familiar with all their teammates’ commitment lists. We want all our players to “Know and understand your self and your teammates”.

Communication and Reminders

Communication is an area that is essential for the effectiveness of all groups. In the area of team sports, teams that communicate on the field or court are normally the most effective at what they do. We encourage our players to communicate on and off the court. We have them constantly give each other “Reminders”. These reminders can range from players reminding each other to be on time for a meeting to getting their hands up on defense. We demand each other to communicate about every expectation of our program. During practice sessions we run many drills which reinforce communication and during games we have our players on the bench constantly communicating to their teammates on the court, giving them reminders and encouragement. This communication is critical to our team chemistry, accountability, and overall effectiveness. During our goal setting meetings the coaches discuss the importance of communication and guide the members of the team to set communication as one of our team goals. Once our players understand how important communication is, they normally buy in to it and take ownership for being good communicators.

This is part One of Two parts for this article. Here is the link to: Building Great Teams Part 2

About the author of this article, Coach Dave Millhollin In fourteen years at Ponderosa High School, Coach Dave’s teams won 260 games (.665). From 2000 through 2009 Ponderosa won 207 games over a ten year stretch which included four SVC Conference Championships and two CIF Section final four appearances. Over his 27 year Boys Varsity Coaching career, Coach Dave posted 391 wins, produced 20 college basketball players and was named SVC Coach of the Year four times. At Ponderosa, Coach Dave’s teams were #1 in California in team defense five times and in 2008 Ponderosa was the top defensive team in the Nation among shot clock states. Over Coach Millhollin’s last five seasons (2005-6 through 2009-2010; 136 games) Ponderosa averaged a composite 50% total field goal percentage, 58% two point field goal percentage and 32% three point field goal percentage. Since retiring from High School coaching in 2010, Coach Dave has been actively involved in coaching Jr High level School and AAU teams as well as and running instructional basketball clinics from the primary grades through the College level.

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