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Castles by Ants – Episode 27: Basics of Cohesion

An ongoing series about psychology in the world of sport.

If the core of the team is set, then the key is maintaining team cohesion, and certainly, the coach is not just the leader but also a member of the team! For some coaches, this is not so natural. For example, during the teambuilding process, they ask the team cohesion professional to “hold the workshops, and make a report about how it went, and I will also ask the team”. But how can we create real unity when the coach and managers are not there? Of course, this doesn’t mean that we always have to deal with the entire team, but we have to lay down the fundamentals together!

It depends on the sport and the country, but we have seen recent movement toward a coach-centric direction, meaning the coach is considered the starting point and they are given free rein to select their team. These coaches have increasingly kept Ruler and Individual players to a minimum, i.e. only in quantity and proportion to the team’s components. If we choose this way during player selection, then we talk still about setting up the team from scratch, since even past team members may have to perform vastly different roles from before. This process is longer and requires much more energy and trust from the executives towards the coach. But as Expert star coaches continue winning awards, and their national teams cause greater surprises at world competitions, it is easier and easier to gain this trust! Moreover, a globalisation effect has intensified, and it is no longer an “act of treason” to win with a foreign coach, even in the most nationalistic countries! Probably the best example comes from my home country, and the “series of unfortunate events” suffered by the Győri Audi ETO women’s handball team. After losing seven international cup finals, the stars finally aligned. In the 2010-11 season, they made it to the semi-finals against the team considered the weakest of the final four, the Spanish team, Itxako. Although the Spain women’s handball team was strong at the time, the nation’s biggest stars didn’t play at home, so the Hungarian fans were happy for the easy path to the final. Nobody wanted to face the star Norwegian team in the semis. So, we were “lucky”. Then, during the first match of the two-match semi-final series, Győr was stopped dead in its tracks, because the Spanish team won with 5 goals due to the excellent tactics of the coach who was “reading Győr like a book”. The coach was Ambros Martin, who was well-known then but wasn’t yet a huge name. We were sure that we were going to eliminate the goal differential during the next match, which is quite doable handball, especially considering the fact that Győr was playing at home. Then came the real slap in the face. Lo and behold, an even better version of the Spanish team arrived in Hungary, and Győr had to wage a physical war just to end up with a draw. They had no chance in the end! The next year, with even better players who cost even more money, Győr made it to the finals again, but then they split the finals matches, and Győr lost based on a goal differential tiebreaker. Then Ambros Martin came to Győr, and the year he arrived, the team finally won the championship for which they had waited for decades. He changed the team’s structure, player selection, and requirements, so while improvements were expected of him, few thought that they’d win the trophy in his very first season as head coach. Outstanding results have poured in ever since, and although I don’t know for certain, I’d wager that he gets free rein for teambuilding! Do you want to guess his personality type? You won’t believe it: he’s an Expert!

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Castles by Ants – Episode 26: Basics of Teambuilding