4 Ways to Improve Team Chemistry in Athletics

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Team chemistry is the key to success according to multiple quotes given by high school basketball coaches on the USA Basketball’s official site. Using the words “critical”, “essential”, and “caring”, they correlate team chemistry with winning and success on and off the court. David DeBusschere, a celebrated baseball player and basketball player/coach, has also stated, “The best teams have chemistry. They communicate with each other and they sacrifice personal glory for the common goal.”

Coaches who are passionate about their team’s success focus time and effort on building chemistry. They strengthen the bond between every player and themselves to create seamless communication and a firm support system. Players who learn about and participate in team chemistry during their interscholastic years will be prepared to form those bonds in their collegiate/professional athletic careers later. Therefore, it is every high school coach’s responsibility to build, maintain, and improve team chemistry for current and future success.

Learning how to motivate athletes is an important part of coaching.

What is Team Chemistry?

Team chemistry is the sum of relationships between every player and the coach. When coaches refer to strong or positive team chemistry, they are highlighting the team’s conscious effort to reach a common goal instead of selfish pursuits. Seasoned coaches understand that athletes won’t always see eye-to-eye and may dislike one another for any number of reasons, but they can still play together with purpose under their guidance.

Coaches don’t improve team chemistry by choosing athletes who get along. Instead, they initiate scenarios and provide environments that enable positive relationship growth or at least build respect. Teaching their athletes to work with others beyond their own personal feelings is a powerful skill that will be a benefit in their future athletic, professional, and personal careers. Cultivating trust, open communication, and equality between team members creates a stronger team bond and leads to success.

Cultivate Positivity and Teamwork

Positive team chemistry is learned from the coach. They lead by example and the team reflects the exemplified attitude and work ethic. If athletes see their coach speak negatively to them or others, they will do likewise. High school athletes are impressionable and look to influential figures in their lives to emulate. When improving team chemistry, coaches need to start with their own example.

There are a few ways coaches can provide a positive example. If one of their athletes is struggling or makes a mistake, they can communicate positively and effectively with them. Connecting with a player on a personal level and listening will result in a stronger performance. The goal is to teach the team to communicate in this way with one another. Another strategy is to celebrate strong performances and acknowledge progress. By focusing on the positive, coaches are indirectly teaching their team to be positive which is integral to team chemistry.

Do Things Together Outside of Athletics

The personal relationships needed to create strong, positive team chemistry can’t be solely built during athletics. Athletes are usually too preoccupied with drills, remembering strategy, and pushing their performance to spend time fraternizing with one another. Coaches who schedule occasional activities outside of athletics are providing time for players to connect on personal levels other than their love for the sport.

Weekly dinners, community service, study hours, or a group activity like bowling are commonly used activities by high school coaches to improve team chemistry. It’s important that the activity isn’t completely free-form because there is an underlying goal to achieve. The activity should subtly force interaction between players and even the coaches in order to break the surface-level relationships. As players and coaches connect on a level deeper than athletics, the team chemistry will strengthen as well.

Treat Players Equally

Successful coaches may not give players an equal amount of playing time, but they do treat every player equally. Team chemistry comes from unity – same goals, the same standards, and the same consequences. Favoritism is detrimental to team chemistry and will reduce comradery quickly. To prevent resentment, coaches have to hold every player to the same standard.

Again, treating players equally does not mean allocating equal playing time. Playing time is earned through hard work and progress. Treating players equally means supporting them in the same way, listening to everyone’s thoughts respectively, and holding each athlete to the same rules. If the strongest player on the team skips a practice, then coaches can’t let that slide; they need to be held accountable the same as every other player.

Teach Players About Losing and Supporting One Another

An important aspect of team chemistry is integrity. Integrity is defined as being honest and having strong morality. Coaches dedicated to leading their teams to success to instill integrity in each player. If every athlete has integrity and it is prominent in their relationship with one another, then the team chemistry is at its strongest. This is a beneficial shield against losses which cause stress and blame. In lieu of turning on one another or questioning themselves, the coach has helped them build a strong foundation for handling loss appropriately.

Those who understand how to build relationships and have a passion for athletics should consider a role within an athletic administration. Having the patience to cultivate positive relationships and help others grow on multiple levels is a desired skill within athletics. High school athletes have the best chance at a future athletic career when they have a coach focused on improving team chemistry. It teaches them to be honest and selfless, communicate, and connect with the team toward success.

Learn More

Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.

Recommended Reading

Ohio University Blog, “Equal Opportunity to be a Student-Athlete: NCAA Demographics Reflect Improvement”
Ohio University Blog, “7 Positive Uses of Social Media for Student-Athletes and Coaches”
Ohio University Blog, “Player Safety”
Ohio University Blog, “3 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership in Athletic Programs”


USA Basketball, “Coaches Network: How To Improve Communication With Players”
Sports Psychology and Clinical Psychology, “Quotes for Coaches”
Upward.org, “6 Ways to Build Team Chemistry”
Dr. Chris Stankovich, “5 Tips for Coaches to Build Team Chemistry and Cohesion”