Three Things you Can Do to Increase Team Performance

By Sheryl Kline Cardiff M.A.

There are many dynamics that effect the actual productivity of a team. While talented players are important and certainly helpful, the best players do not necessarily predict the best team. Potential team productivity also does not guarantee actual team performance. As many have observed or experienced, there are times when less talented teams pull together for a superior performance. Their actual productivity is higher than the ‘better team’ due to individual sacrifice, team dynamics and hard work. How a team works together is a vital part of optimal team performance.

In order for a team to function at it’s potential, process losses need to be reduced. There are two main team losses that cause a group to falter (Weinberg and Gould, 1995). Motivation loss is can occur when a team member does not perform at the highest level he or she is capable of. While coordination loss is a timing or communication breakdown between two or more teammates. There could be a host of reasons causing this lack of motivation. Communicate with the player, reinforce his or her importance to the team, what you have noticed, and ask for some input on how you can help get that player back on track. As for coordination loss, it’s a communication issue as well, but it requires an analysis of group function between the involved teammates. If a ball drops between two players and neither goes for it, those two players need to figure out why it happened and put a plan in place for next time. This last step is often forgotten, but necessary for a successful sequence next time.

Players need to anticipate movements of teammates (Comrey and Deskin 1954). This requires talking about different sequences (i.e.: setting and hitting a volleyball, the placement and height of the ball etc.), so teammates know what to expect ahead of time. This will allow a player to get balance and ready to react properly. Ideally, teammates that perform sequences together are of similar ability. Practicing these common and specific sequences between players is helpful, so they can be executed during competition and high pressure play.

Finally, outcomes and tasks for larger teams should to be broken down into smaller units. The purpose of this is to make sure all contributors feel that they are a useful part of the group. The Ringelmann effect is a phenomenon where individual performance decreases as the number of people in a group increases. In order to get the most out of each player, set specific individual and small group goals that are related to the larger goal for the team. These smaller goals should be realistic and attainable. For example, player A and player B will work on increasing their set/kill percentage in volleyball from 80%-90%. The over all goal may be to win a National Championship, but this goal will keep these two particular players on track, especially if they perceive themselves as not major contributors.