Team Work

Over the the last few months I have been thinking a lot about teams. What actually is a team ? What makes a successful team and what elements are corrosive to a teams overall development ?

Firstly, I would like to define what a team means to me in Combat Sports. I appreciate the whole “once the cage door is closed, your on your own” theory. Although sounding very noble, if you consider the amount of time on the mat with training partners and coaches that theory seems illogical.

To make my stance clear, I believe if you spend a certain amount of time training with a team you should represent that team, be there to support team mates when you do not have a pending bout and generally try to be your best . I am not only talking about day to day training partners but also the full support system including coaches , conditioning coaches , managers Etc.

A team is a complex arrangement of individuals hopefully driven by a similar goal . Whether your team make up is simply fighter and coach or a multi athlete squad supported by an army of specialists there are many corrosive elements that if not addressed will rot the core and bring the team and therefore the individual fighters performance down if not consistently addressed.

Team dysfunction arises when one or more of the following is not addressed :

• Absence of trust
• Fear of conflict
• Lack of commitment
• Avoidance of accountability
• Inattention to results

With that in mind taking time to establish the following protocols will without doubt aid the continuing progress of the group as a whole..


The first thing to do is define your vision for the whole team and each individual. If you do not clearly define your mission to athletes and coaching staff there is no direction. When there is no direction or purpose people will steer of course, especially when the going gets tough. To avoid this confusion define a clear, simple to understand mission statement and ensure the team “is on board” with it.

Who’s the boss

A team needs a leader. By that I mean somebody who has the courage and intelligence to take calculated risks . They do not have to be a dictator or Yoda but rather someone who can cultivate the optimal environment for progress and learning . An effective team leader listens to and communicates with individual team members to solve conflict, build trust and develop cohesion between individuals whist encouraging skill development and creativity .

Rolling out the responsibility

Again its all about clarity. Each individual member needs to know their role and what they are responsible for. Whether fighter, conditioning coach, therapist , manager or gym cleaner your job and responsibilities within that job need to be clear. Boundaries also need to be set . The fighter telling the conditioning coach how many reps to do while the cleaner is polishing the amateurs jab is only going to cause problems. Establish the role and requirements of each individual team player and work within the markers of your role. With policies and procedures firmly in place “passing the buck” becomes impossible. Ultimately taking responsibility is the bottom line.

Is talk cheap

On a daily basis I hear talk in the gym. On the banter level it is usually funny. The question is it up front and honest communication ?
Under the veil of ego and image usually not. Young males especially are not known for their ability to talk it out. Most arguments , misunderstandings and false assumptions arise from unclear communication. Make time to talk things through honestly whether in a team meeting or individual sessions.

Measuring up

Most sports have a form of measurement for competition. Medals, title belts and league tables are all well and good to measure your teams success. What about the weekly, monthly or day to day data ? If you are not measuring and recording regularly you will have no clarity regards what is working and what is not. Understand what and where you need to improve and establish a model for assessing progress as well as the outcomes.


A little bit of recognition goes a long way so the saying goes. We all agree that people like to be recognised for their achievements, however, the happy clappy back patting brigade breed a false sense of security that any fighter or coach should be wary of. Lets face it, this is the fight game. If you need to surround yourself with “Yes men” then this probably isn’t the game for you. If you are more concerned with your Facebook Likes or Blue tick as opposed to your intrinsic motivations its going to be a tough road.

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