Saturday, November 6, 2010

Team chemistry and Basketball IQ are the winning keys to pursue excellence!

Basketball Telegraph columnist, veteran pointguard Donte Mathis, talks about what "chemistry" is being a player and depending on a team sport.

A few years back, skimming throughout the leagues of the basketball world, if you were familiar with a certain league it was pretty predictable knowing who would probably win or lose. Favorites were more clear cut and underdogs remained just that... under. You could look at a team in warmups and understand who had the advantage, who was worried, and who wasn't prepared. The development of team chemistry has elevated the game and we are witnessing more upsets because teams are getting their players to accept their roles as well as play for each other and sharing more responsibility.

Teams have an idea of how important chemistry is and throughout the years the first thing they would do at the beginning of a season would be to isolate the players in a training camp (usually away from their home city)  to develop a bond between each other and let them get to know everyone on and off the court better. You are personally forced to get out of your comfort zone and rely and coexist with teammates. It's a good thing when you have high ambitions because the individual goals of each player can be molded into the team goals. Normally in Europe you can have 2-3 American players per team, and their talent has been relied on for years to get teams over the hump. Talent was dominant for so long and it was the determining factor in the direction most organizations based their teams around... everybody had to have it. Looking at where the game is going and how teams are trying to achieve a consistency with winning... club are spreading more responsibility throughout the team in a clear-cut (stars, role players, rookies) fashion.

In order for this to work the unit has to work together efficiently while respecting each other's strengths/roles. The "lone" star who will individually save a franchise has almost turned into fools gold. It's interesting how chemistry affects a team as well as players... they both need the right fit to flourish. I've seen guys play on last place teams one year to heavily contributing on a championship team the next: same player, same role, same style of individual player. In professional sports there should be a more constant equilibrium because everybody is a pro; team budget can be a factor but it's really who's light bulb turns on first and understands what they have to do to win. Sacrifice is a huge factor in a team being successful. On the teams I've played on that have been successful, the internal talk was always, "set him up and I'll screen him", "if he beats you, I'll be there to help" where as the teams I've played for that were unsuccessful or that underachieved, I always heard "hey hey hey, I'm open" or saw body language and facial expressions that speak harsher and give away more negative energy than words.

Forty minutes isn't a lot of time to make and recover from errors against good ball clubs. Teams that have developed good chemistry recover but limit making the same mistakes often, they are predictable for each other, usually personally ambitious and have the same goals. I've witnessed the habits of good teams and their traits are contagious: the majority is usually focused, committed to sacrifice, skilled in their role and have a consistent basketball IQ. I try to be a good teammate cause it will force other members of my team to respond to me in a certain way. My actions off the court with them have to coincide with my actions on the court, cause if I laugh and converse with them off, then never pass them the ball or help them, I personally risk getting the best out of them. If I was a swimmer, a golfer, or a sprinter, I wouldn't have to rely on anyone but myself, but my well being and livelihood being dependent on a team sport requires me to cultivate the relationships I have with the guys on it.

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