Over the years, I have begun to realize the importance of "team chemistry" as being a major component of a successful team. Over the weekend, I saw an article about William Gallas of Arsenal and the conflicts he has with some of the Arsenal players. Teammate Samir Nasri, says that there are 4-5 Arsenal players that don't talk to Gallas. Kolo Toure, revealed that one of the reasons he moved to Man City last summer was because of problems he had with Gallas.
I found this very interesting because over the last 19 years, I have coached an average of about 3 teams per year...we do this in the U.S.! And the most successful team I coached, also had the best team chemistry. I also coached other talented teams that, although did reasonably well, they didn't reall reach their potential or do as well as their talent level indicated.
I started the 87 Dynamos (girls) when they were U8's. By the time they were U10's, we had nucleus of about 5-7 girls who were not only pretty good players, but they were pretty good athletes, loved playing soccer, and were very competitive in nature. Of all the teams I have coached, it was the only one that had a strong nucleus of such players that possessed all those attributes. Other teams were close, but maybe lacking in one area.
Over the years, the 87G Dynamos got used to being successful. As a coach, I worked hard at creating a culture and environment that made them feel good about their success and got them to understand that it came from their hard work at practice and their dedication. Fortunately, the nucleus of players loved the team and loved playing soccer and worked their butts off at practice and in games.
So what happened was that whenever a new players joined the team, unless they worked hard like the nucleus of players did, they were the odd ones out. So to fit in and become an integral part of the team, they had to be as dedicated as the nucleus. This was great for me as a coach, as it made my job tons easier. Basically, the nucleus of girls who had been on the team for years were the driving force to be successful and other players either joined in what they were doing if they wanted to be part of the nucleus or just became "fringe" players.
Even though the 87 Dynamos were very talented, looking back, we were successful in many instances not because we were more talented than the opposition...there were some pretty good teams we played from across the nation...but because we were better prepared, in better shape, or outworked them.
On the other hand, 2-3 other teams come to mind that I have coached who have had the same talent level or maybe more talent than the 87 Dynamos that have been nowhere near as successful as the 87 Dynamos. For certain spells, they played extremely well and up to their talent level, but it never lasted. In every single one of these teams, there was something lacking. Either, the nucleus wasn't as dedicated, or worked as hard or prepared as well.
Here are two simple examples. When doing conditioning work, I was constantly amazed at the effort of the 87 Dynamos players who used to push themselves to the limit. Sometimes I used to say to them that we would have an easy session tonight as they had done well over the past week or so, but they would insist on doing the conditioning work as they knew it would help them for upcoming games. On the other hand, other talented teams I coached, would dog it when doing conditioning work. The better players would take it easy and therefore, other players would follow suit. Or players would show up late for practice and slowly make their way from the parking lot to the field even though they were late.
These might seem like small incidents but they really made all the difference between the team being successful, reaching their potential or not being successful and not reaching their potential.
It might not be the case, but it was only a few weeks ago that Arsenal had a chance to win the EPL...they controlled their own destiny. But they fizzled out and lost some critical games. I can't help but wonder if their team chemistry isn't what it should be with the Gallas situation and whether that played an important role to their poor finish to the season.