Successful teams all have at least one thing in common, and that is good team chemistry. Ask any player who has played on a championship team and they will tell you this. Chemistry is about unison. It’s about a common goal, a common belief. No amount of talent can make up for a lack of chemistry. Basketball is a team sport, and it’s a huge benefit for teammates to care about the well-being of one another. Team chemistry is simple math, really. Would you rather play with someone you genuinely like and care about or someone you really dislike? The answer is obvious. The best teams are often like a close family, with each member pushing each other to be at their best in a mutual pursuit of team success.
Some teams seem to be chronic underachievers, who, despite all of their talent, never seem to live up to expectations. On many of these teams, there are often at least one or two players who can’t seem to get along with other players or won’t buy in to the overall team concept. Although one or two players are more than capable of disrupting chemistry, there are almost always deeper issues within a team when this happens and the problem almost always starts with the overall culture of the team.
Fortunately, there are many ways to build team chemistry. Having team outings that allow everybody to get to know each other on a personal level, outside of the gym, can have a huge impact on how well a team meshes. Team dinners, bowling, golfing, or just a night out as a team can have a very profound effect on the players’ understanding of each other as individuals. It’s much easier to fully support someone who you know and respect as a person, and not just as a basketball player.
Coaches generally won’t discuss specifics when it comes to a team’s chemistry or lack thereof, but it doesn’t usually take much reading between the lines to see whether there is an issue or not. Coaches often take a more benign approach to address chemistry issues, talking more generally about the need to “play better as a team” and things of that nature. When it comes to who is a problem and who is not, a coach often expresses his opinions based on who is given playing time and who is not. If a player who is usually in the rotation becomes noticeably absent from the rotation, it says more than words ever could.
It’s important to note that, as much influence as a coach may have on a team, team chemistry is ultimately dictated by players. Each and every player is responsible for building and maintaining camaraderie within the team. Coaches can do a lot of things, from motivating and instilling discipline in players to guiding team drills. They can put players in a position to come together as a team, but cannot make them come together as a team and care about the good of one another. Every player on the roster has to answer for whether or not this happens.
Most teams are not as closely-knit as they seem to be from the outside looking in. Not everybody will get along no matter what anyone does. That’s just not the way the world works. There are just too many different personalities and other factors at play. When people see a team celebrating together, the assumption is usually that all of the players get along. The reality is, some teams can celebrate together and not acknowledge each other until the next team practice or meeting. Obviously, chemistry is not what the outside world sees, but what goes on behind closed doors.
A team will not reach its potential without chemistry and the best teams understand the value of belonging to something bigger than themselves. These teams are the ones that won’t crumble when adversity strikes and won’t be quick to point fingers or dole out blame when things go wrong. Great teams never allow their unity to be undermined by one or two players. Building chemistry takes a conscious effort and a genuine underlying concern with the team’s success. The things we do and don’t do as a team will usually give us a pretty good idea of where we stand.