Basketball Legend Shane Battier’s Secrets to Team Success
By Melissa Wickes
February 7, 2023
Shane Battier knows a thing or two about winning and team success—after all, he once held the unofficial record for most games won in NCAA Division I men’s basketball and holds two NBA championship titles.
From a young age, the one place Shane felt normal was in youth sports. He grew up mixed, never quite fitting in with the Black kids or the white kids—except at recess. When he was part of a winning team, he felt like the other kids wanted to be around him.
“For me, youth sports was a lifesaver,” says Shane. “It was win or die—socially.”
For that reason, Shane started thinking about the key elements of team success early on in his life, and it paid off big time. Teams Shane played on won championships at the high school, college, professional, and international levels. In fact, he lost only 15 games in four years of playing at Duke University, boasting a 130-15 record.
So what do successful teams have in common? Here’s what Shane learned about team success—socially, athletically, and professionally—from his years of playing basketball.
The level of trust you have in your teammates affects your success in so many ways. The more trust you have in your team, the less stressed you will be because you know you can count on your teammates in every situation. In fact, it’s actually proven that people who trust more have lower levels of stress. Some of the ways you can increase feelings of trust in your team are listening to one another, meditation, and talking things through.
A team can’t be successful if they are not aligned and focused on the same goal. Ask your team, why are we all here? Is it to win? Is it love of the game? Is it to better ourselves? Whatever it may be, getting everyone on the same page is absolutely crucial.
Constant team collaboration is one of the ways you can align your team on a mission. When you’re not at practice or work, when else is your team getting together to collaborate? Other ways you can create mission-focus are establishing short-term goals that help you fulfill long-term goals and over-communicating.
The way Shane sees it, there are three different kinds of team dynamics you can create based on your alignment with trust and mission-focus—he calls it the championship-quadrant model.
These teams have low trust in one another and low-mission focus. They’re often defined by pettiness, excuses, pointing fingers, and tardiness. To correct a “disastrous team,” do as Shane did when he joined the Memphis Grizzlies—find the people who care and take charge. Show them the value of helping teammates and grow your cohort of people who are helpful. The “helpers” will soon outnumber the negative teammates and the vibe will begin to shift.
These teams may be focused on the mission, but they don’t trust their teammates to help them get it done, only themselves. Improve team communication and collaboration in cases like this. Get together outside of practice (or work) and try to understand each other better.
Championship teams are coherent teams; ones with high mission-focus and high trust levels. These teams have shared cognition and shared ownership. They know what their teammates need to meet team goals and each person wants to be part of the best team possible.
These teams are characterized by a shared enjoyment, low turnover rates, and high retention. However, when you have success in any group setting, you start to overestimate your individual impact and underestimate the effort it takes to get to that coherent team quadrant. It’s hard work, says Shane. It takes discipline and failure.
The best players are not the ones who make a great play, but the players who make a play time and time again.
Can you move on to the next opportunity to make a play faster than your competition? Only then can you become a championship team—and that is true to any business, relationship, or sport.
How to Ensure Team Success in Youth Sports
Youth sports coaches, organizers, and leaders can only inspire team success on the field when they have the time and attention to do so. Spend less time on administrative, back-end tasks so you can focus on what really matters—building a championship team.