“Team identity” is a amorphous term. It is the underlying chemistry and culture that a team develops when they practice and compete. It can be a big positive, and it can be a big negative.
Individual player success and team success improves significantly when a positive team energy emerges. The coaching staff is responsible for setting the overall environment, boundaries and expectations of team identity. That is what John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is all about. But, the players fill in the blanks from there.
Sometimes it takes 2 weeks and sometimes 2 months. But, when it happens, it is pretty easy to see.
As a coach, I can provide my first input on this. Step 1 for this team is to play with high Energy Level and Passion — think Dustin Pedroia & David Eckstein, That will provide a foundation for lots of good things to follow.
In the Gamers program, we talk about ROOTS — Respecting Opponents Officials Team and Self. And, part of Respecting Officials is for players NOT to react to umpire calls. Umpire calls are out of a player’s control. For parents, we ask (demand) that they do not umpire from the stands or make negative comments to umpires.
So, that part is clear.
And for Gamer coaches, we expect the same approach — being respectful of the umpires. We require that our players shake the umpires hands after games for a reason — out of respect and appreciation, just like shaking hand with the opponent (I need to talk to 14u players about this!!).
But, I am personally in a strange situation. The Gamers programs writes large checks to tournament operators, much of which ends up going to umpires. In that regard, as a customer I have certain expectations. I demand that umpires are engaged in the game and pay attention to detail. Basically, do their jobs with some passion and effort in exchange for money and some fun.
When I do not see that happening, I say something — usually after the game (but not always). This conversation does not go well, because umpires don’t like to be held accountable and I am a little too blunt in my criticism. As a customer, I am going to hold them accountable for passion and effort.
When I challenge an umpire, I am not looking for excuses for a loss. If we lose or do not play well, there is no doubt where the finger should be pointed — at our dugout. When it happens, I am just asking them to give an adequate level of effort.
Finally, it drives me crazy when umpires try to interject themselves into the game. The players play for themselves, their teammates and their coaches, not the umpires. If umpires have a problem with the players, they need to come and talk to the coach, not bark orders around like Barney Fife. If an umpire does this, I will defend our players 100% of the time. It is my job and I do it with passion and effort. If an umpire comes to the me to talk about a players behavior, then I will address it.
But, umpires do not get to play dictator and boss teenagers around. That is my job. Umpires need to stick to officiating, not coaching.
So, there is good chance I may be tossed from a game or two. It happens. But, it is not an excuse for not playing well AND it is not a free pass for players and parents to start playing umpire.
Players play, Parents parent, Umpires up and Coaches coach. It is really pretty simple and we need to hold each other accountable for that.