With Philadelphia and Boston all knotted up at 3-3, Miami one game away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, and let's not forget San Antonio and Oklahoma City already waiting in the wings for the Western Conference Championships to start. Let's not forget the ongoing tabloid and TV dissection of the Los Angeles Lakers: the aging Kobe and the controversial Andrew Bynum.
The one thing these teams have in common is how differently they conduct themselves on the court. Just as each individual athlete has their style and personality, so does a sports team. Like individual athletes, teams have their strengths and they have their quirks. It is up to the leadership (coaches, administration, and the players themselves) to use what they have as a cohesive unit in order to be consistently successful.
It is often in high-pressure situations where these characteristics are manifested the most. One thing that we can learn from high-stakes athletic competition is this: talent is often not enough.
If talent is not enough to win championships, then what are the ingredients? In my opinion, here's the non-exhaustive list:
1. Strong leaders. Not just coaches, but the players themselves. These individuals know when to push and back off and how to utilize everyone's unique strengths. Examples: Coach Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
2. A problem-solving approach to tough situations. Together, these teams figure out how to win. It may not be flashy or entertaining, but it gets the job done. Example: Indiana Pacers.
3. Perhaps the most obvious: players putting one players needs aside for the good of the team-whatever it looks like for the player in question. This one invloves not just what they typically call "selfless play" but these players know their role on the team and are comfortable with their strengths. A team full of adaptive athletes is often a successful one.
Paul Pierce, perhaps one of the most talented members not just in the Boston Celtics organization but in the entire league, knows when to push and elevate his game in order to help the team win. Pierce is comfortable with his role as a team leader and takes it seriously, according to various interviews over the years.
4. Successful team dynamics often includes having common goals and a shared vision. Not only do these objectives exist but are commonly reviewed, analyzed, and adjusted as needed unanimously.
Next playoff game you see, take note of what you see on the court and the sidelines. What examples of team dynamics and positive leadership behaviors do you see?