Team Culture Does Not Equal Team Chemistry

Paul’s Blog

December 12, 2020


Squash is inherently an individual sport that you play on a team, but I don't coach it that way. To me, it's a team sport. Nobody cares about your individual accomplishments; I want to know what the team did. That's what they're going to write about in the newspaper the next day. So I'm very focused on team, team, team.


I'm also a bit of a dinosaur in that I'm a big believer in seniority and in rite of passage. I believe in JV letters and varsity letters. My loyalty will always go to the upperclassman. We live in a world that's a meritocracy. If Bill Gates is inventing things at the age of 20, he's going to get paid accordingly, but in the dynamic of a team, the upperclassmen need to know that they're in charge. They are the telephone line between the team and me and my assistants. Now I may have a freshman who's the best player on the team- we had one this past year- and he’ll play number one. But in terms of a rite of passage, he's still the lowest form of life on earth. I like for them to understand that you earn your stripes in time.


We tell the guys if they have a problem to go to the upperclassmen first. We do not want your first action to be to come to me; let them help you through the process. If they can't find the answers, then they let me know what's going on. That establishes a chain of command to which they learn that someday, they could be in that role. They aspire to be in that role of being the person that people want to go to. And not only lead by example, but also by thought and word.


Athletes are by nature selfish, and elite athletes are completely selfish because they need to be singularly focused. One of the things I try to do a lot is to get the guys doing things together away from the away from the courts. They'll come over to my house for the Super Bowl. We'll go miniature golfing. It’s just getting them to care about each other as much, if not more, than they care about themselves. We want to live like our hair is on fire, coming in every day and being the best version of ourselves. But as human beings, there are days when we just don't feel it. We just don't have it. On those days, your commitment to your teammate will be the thing that pushes you through the hump. I have thousands of examples of where the commitment to team has transferred directly into victory.


The funny thing is we get too much credit for team chemistry, and we get too much blame. I can't tell why the chemistry is the way it is. Coaches don't determine team chemistry; coaches can screw it up. Coaches can create a culture, but that doesn't transfer down to chemistry. Successful teams have successful chemistry.

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