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Coaching Tips

Team Chemistry

What comes first, winning or team chemistry?

There will likely never be an answer to that, but baseball writer Joe Strauss takes a close look at the issue of clubhouse dynamics in today’s St. Louis Post Dispatch.

On baseball’s Opening Day, Strauss discusses some of the St. Louis Cardinals’ off-season moves through the prism of personalities. In a six-month season, every team needs people who can defuse tension and make it fun to come to the park. But those people have to be able to play, too. It’s a balance.

“There was an attempt to improve the clubhouse chemistry as well as the mix of players so it would be a more cohesive group,” the article quotes Cardinals’ general manager John Mozeliak as saying.

The Cardinals finished second in the National League Central last season, behind the Cincinnati Reds, and some people thought the team should have done better. So team chemistry becomes a suspect.

Over the long season — seven and a half-months if you include spring training and more than eight months if you make the playoffs — players spend more time with each other than with anyone else, including their family. That’s why baseball teams have clubhouses, and teams in other sports have locker rooms. The ballpark is home away from home.

Clubhouse chemistry defies description. It need not be all peace and love. The Oakland A’s of the early 1970s brawled among themselves but were united in a hatred for their owner, Charlie Finley. Their clubhouse was more interesting than a night out on the town with Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.

Whether you like the Yankees, Red Sox or any other team, keep in mind that when you watch a baseball game, you’re seeing more than runs, hits and errors. You’re seeing a blend of personalities, and some of the blends work better than others.

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” click here.


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