I’m a perfectionist in the kitchen. I want to know exactly how much of each ingredient to add so the finished product tastes just like my mom’s!
Similarly, coaches want to know the recipe to create a winning team. How much practice, weight training and conditioning will it take? What about perseverance, inspirational quotes or team bonding experiences? The amounts may vary, but according to former Green Bay Packer coach, Vince Lombardi, it takes three main ingredients to make a winning team.*
First, coaches must teach their players the fundamentals. They must understand the basics of the game and how to play their position. Fundamentals to sport are like a foundation to a house. Just as a house with a shaky foundation falls when struck by a storm, athletes who lack solid fundamentals crumble in the face of tough competition. When athletes learn proper technique and refine those skills over time, however, their game withstands the challenges that stiff competition brings.
Next, coaches must instill the discipline of teamwork into their athletes. Great teams play together, not as individuals. This means athletes must understand, and more importantly, accept their role on the team. One of my favorite examples is the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. Obviously Jordan was the star, but he needed a great supporting cast for the Bulls to make history.
I grew up in the same hometown as John Paxson, and even had him as a camp counselor one summer. Now there’s a guy who knew and embraced his role! His job was to get the ball to the scorers and to shoot the open three when defenses collapsed on his teammates. He perfected his skill and in 1993 hit the game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 of the Finals to help the Bulls win their third World Championship in a row.
The Final Ingredient is…
Lots of coaches teach fundamentals and discipline, but still don’t win the game. To Lombardi, the third ingredient is the deal breaker: love. Quite simply, team members must love one another. That, he said, “is the difference between mediocrity and greatness.”
On a team where individuals care about one another, each athlete realizes that if he does not do his job well, it affects his teammates. For example, an offensive lineman wants to execute his blocking assignments because he knows a miss means the quarterback won’t be able to perform his job. This type of commitment creates unity that is tough to beat.
As you search for the recipe for a winning team, try these three ingredients and you’ll surely taste sweet victory!
*Iacocca, by Lee Iacocca and William Novak (1984), p.44