Monday, January 25, 2016

High Fives by Steve Nash

You hear broadcasters talk about it as a big separator. You read about it in many articles and stories. You hear coaches talking about it all the time, working day and night to create that very thing and instill it in their teams. You see players in post game interviews either attribute their wins to it or blame their losses on the lack of it.

It’s a mysterious and elusive part of being a great team. Some have it right away, and some take a long time to develop it, but no matter what the case may be – no team can win without it.

In the 2011 NBA finals, the intriguing matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat brought together two essentially different teams in terms of the conceptual theories behind their building process, as well as two different styles of play. On the one hand, LeBron, Wade and Bosh, the big 3 are all stars in their own right. Wade is a former champion (2006), Bosh was a 20 points, 10 rebounds franchise player for his career, and LeBron was arguably the best player on the planet. Erik Spoelstra was a young coach with little playoff experience.

On the other hand, stood Dirk Nowitzki, the sole superstar on a team of carefully placed role players. Everybody knew their roles, but most importantly – everybody accepted their roles. The Mavericks’ coach, Rick Carlisle, was a veteran coach with playoff experience that is known for maximizing his players’ talents. As the 2011 NBA finals unfolded, a very interesting piece of information became more and more prevalent – The Mavericks’ players simply could not keep their hands off each other.

The Dallas Mavericks’ players seemed to be so dedicated to motivating, reinforcing and supporting one another on each and every play in the game. They would high five, chest bump, but slap each other and hug each other so often that the ABC broadcasters, the broadcasting network, decided to dig a little deeper into how this behavior might effect the outcome of the playoffs.

“Based on a review of ABC’s broadcasts of the first three games of these Finals, The Wall Street Journal logged every moment when two teammates could be seen touching each other on camera, whether it was a high-five, a hug, a chest pat or a butt slap. The results couldn’t be more definitive.” (Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2011).

The results were incredible. The Mavericks were almost twice as much “hands on” than the Heat, a detail that might have been among the determining factors in their eventual 4-2 series win and the 2011 NBA championship title.

This study sprung a more in-depth study of the effects of touching among winning and losing teams. The results were conclusive – the good teams tend to be much more “hands on” than the bad ones.

Teams that feed off of each others energy and support and build one another up tend to win more. High-fiving a player after a positive action builds trust among teammates and a sense of togetherness that cannot be talked about in team meetings. By touching your teammates you become more connected to them and a sense of collective responsibility towards one another and to the whole team emerges.

And so we reach the most elusive team skill – Chemistry. Some teams find it faster than others, some take longer time to find it and some don’t find it at all. Those teams that develop solid chemistry will be more successful than those who struggle developing it. It’s as simple as that most of the time.

To all the coaches reading this – take the initiative and push your players to become that teammate that pushes everybody to do better by high-fiving their teammates after good plays, as well as patting them on the head after bad ones. To be that positive energy player that you simply cannot take off the floor because of how important they are for team chemistry. To become that X-factor player that every team needs and helps to create camaraderie among their teammates and chemistry between them.

After all, it could just be the difference between a team being mediocre and achieving greatness.

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