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WoV BLOG: Importance of building team chemistry in volleyball

by WoV

“Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ME for the WE,” Phil Jackson, a two-time NBA champion as a player and 11-time NBA champion as a coach.



Team chemistry is often neglected but it is a truly essential component in every (as its name says) team sport, including volleyball. It can help players exceed their objective abilities, show more than they really can… But is there a unique way to build it? Team chemistry is probably the only part of everything which is connected to the team that cannot be influenced by the management. The management can scout players, negotiate with them, hire them but do not have the power to force players to like each other and collaborate. This is where the coaching staff steps in. But, how much actually can a coach affect building team chemistry? Should he or she stay aside and let players reach it by themselves? If players lack the will to bond with each other, what is a coach supposed to do?

In pursuing answers, we contacted several coaches of different experiences. After all, their point of view is most relevant because they are the ones who work with the players for a few hours every day and are acquainted with their mental and physical limitations.

The coach of a younger generation, Tuomas Sammelvuo, told us that team chemistry was a great topic for him, which also became his huge passion, and that coach should not be excluded from that process but has to build it in the cooperation with the players. The longer time players spend together, the better team chemistry is going to be.

“Team building is all about getting all the members of the team on the same page, sharing the vision, mission, and values where we all try to be the best that we can be in our roles. If we manage to build this kind of endless path of willingness to improve, I believe that the results will follow. As a coach, having a feeling that you have helped someone to be better is the feeling that I really want to search for in my job. In Finland, we spend a lot of time speaking about the chemistry and the energy that we can all build together. We are either doing things that bring energy or eat energy, and we want to take care of that in a good way. The players have been great on this matter. We’re not the team with very tall players and maybe not one of the best teams on the paper, so we focus a lot on what we can do together, how everyone can be great teammates and also how to help a teammate to be better; what is our character when it goes well, what is our character when it’s not going well,” the head coach of the Finland Men’s National Team, and also the Russian club Kuzbass Kemerovo, stressed.

Here are some thoughts of Sammelvuo on building team chemistry which he decided to generously share with the readers of our website:

•        The team’s chemistry builds and grows from our way of living together daily. It’s important that we can understand how different we all are inside the team. People discover the diversity of each other when they are in a group.

•          It’s also very important to build a lead with some players, help them grow so that they can help the team grow. Not everything can come only from the coach but, of course, the coach with his staff sets up the road and shows the way.

•          As a coach, it’s important to recognize the moment to lead but it’s also very important to understand a moment to leave the space for the players, to leave the team to grow from the inside.

•          Learning is very important. You need to have a desire to learn so that you can become better.

•          Listen to understand, not to answer.

Sammelvuo set a few so-called rules to build team chemistry:

“1. Do and say things that can help the team; 2. We are not a team because we work together, we are a team because we respect, trust and care for each other; 3. The power of positive thinking and positive energy; 4.Values.“

The coach of nearly 20 years of experience, Australian Mark Lebedew, stated for WorldofVolley that this was a really good question because the functioning of a team is the most important thing in volleyball. For him, it is important to set the balance inside the team where there are rules to be respected but where players are allowed to experiment. Socializing is also highly important to the head coach of the Polish side KS Jastrzębski Węgiel but without the participation of a coach.

“I think that the team is even more important than technical and tactical considerations. In my career, I have done a lot of things to build this. I have had camps, meetings with psychologists, specific team building activities with professionals (like high ropes courses).  Over the years I have gone away from these things because I think the trust that a team requires is the trust that happens on the volleyball court that the player next to me will do his job and let me do my job. That is the key to team chemistry and is my focus. I am trying in practice to make clear the roles and responsibilities in each situation and give the individual players confidence that they can fulfill those roles. I also try to create an atmosphere at practice that promotes concentration and focus but allows players some freedom to experiment and learn. I think this is also important in building strong team chemistry. The last thing is social. I like that the team is able to socialize. But it is important that that is driven by the group, not the coach. So I do not have a big role in that,” Lebedew added.

After talking to coaches of the younger and older generation (we talk of the coaching experience, not age), here are some of the ideas of a mid-generation expert, Andrea Anastasi. The Italian thinks that communication is the basis for building proper team chemistry – to listen to your players without undermining their opinion and to feed the egos of the staff members.

“One of the main aspects of developing a strong team spirit certainly resides in the management and the leadership exercised by the coach – how we feel about the team and how we communicate. It means listening to our team members. People need to be heard, and for a coach, listening is an art. We must teach to have CONFIDENCE that is the main component of a team. Mutual TRUST is the basis for developing any team project. After the trust, another central aspect of my work is to create a COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY inside the team. The coach must ensure that the team HAS AN INTENTION AND A CLEAR DIRECTION, SHARES VALUES AND ASPIRATIONS, DEVELOPS SKILLS (TEAM PLAY), DEVELOPS THE POWER OF THE TEAM and POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Another key is to ‘feed the egos’ – feeling that your staff members are part of a winning team, just like the coach and his players. In a word, we must develop passion and motivation, the mind full of constructive ideas, with our feet firmly on the ground,” the head coach of the Polish club Lotos Trefl Gdańsk said.

Obviously, all coaches try to figure out how to build team chemistry in order to get the most out of their team, not claiming that it is always possible to reach.

What are your thoughts on this?


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