Storm warning – Tuckman’s Team Development Model
Posted by Dean Holden at December 21st, 2013
by Dan Bauer, 12 December 2013
As the new hockey season evolves, I find myself riding a new Storm as the assistant coach of the Central Wisconsin girls’ team, and confronting a familiar storm, the one that begins within the early framework of every team’s season. Just a month into our journey, the storms collided.
In 1965 psychologist Bruce Tuckman introduced his Team Development Model. Using a Dr. Seuss-like rhyme, he labeled the four stages of a team’s growth – forming, storming, norming and performing. Nearly 50 years later his model continues to be valid.
According to Tuckman, a team begins in the forming stage, early season practices and team-building where everyone is getting to know each other. It is the quiet time in terms of a team’s development. Coaches are often still evaluating and most significant personnel decisions have yet to be made.
Then, with the anxiety building like a summer storm warning, comes that fateful day when those first set of lines is posted. With the suddenness of a bolt of lightning, everything changes. For some players, optimism has been squashed and for others goals achieved. Like the clash of two weather fronts, one high pressure and one low pressure, the storm begins.
Good teams not only endure the storm, they ride it out and move on to the next level – norming. Players accept their roles, the team re-focuses on their goals and team unity is restored. Great teams take one more step to reach the final stage – performing. The team’s leadership corps takes over and coaches can sit back and watch the results.
Unfortunately, not every team moves past its pitfalls and obstacles. Learning to persevere is one of the greatest lessons that athletics teaches. From Jackie Robinson, to Dan Jansen, to Donald Driver, examples are everywhere in the sporting arena.
I have my own list of athletes that have endured, names that you have probably never heard of like Andy Eyre, Kyle Weaver, Max Hoenisch, Michael Pattison, Shane Turner, Nick Lemmer and Lars Geary. There are others.
My list did not have a gold medal or a professional career waiting for them, instead a junior or senior season that found them on the bench more than they would have liked in favor of often younger and more talented underclassmen. It is an incredibly difficult place to be at a time in your life when you can be so unfairly and narrowly defined by your athletic prowess. But these young men clearly saw a bigger picture – one bigger than their individual goals – one that included the entire team.
They had parents that taught them old school axioms like “finish what you start, the team comes first” and “when the going gets tough…” well, you know the rest. They learned to respect coaches and not to second guess and undermine their decisions. The grand progressive movement within our society has been trying to rewrite the bedrocks of John Wooden’s pyramid of athletic success and turn the focus on the individual. It is a clash of ideologies that cannot coexist in a successful team. “The team comes first” is an uncompromising principle of any coach worth his weight in coaching manuals.
Deciding a month into a season that you are relegated to an undeserving position on the depth chart is a hasty decision that not only sells you short, but is unfair to your teammates and coaches. Every team will experience adversity throughout their journey. Injuries, grade suspensions and the natural tendencies of players to take things for granted will certainly provide opportunities for others to step up and play. Walking out on your teammates should never be a solution.
Success as a team will take contributions from everyone on your roster. Like a great musical performance, not all of the contributions will be equal, but all are critical to a successful final product. You might just be the cowbell that your team is looking for at a critical point in the season. Finding and accepting your role, out of the spotlight, can be difficult enough for players. It can be next to impossible if parents refuse to drop their unrealistic expectations.
You can play sports for a variety of reasons, but one of them should be because you love the game itself. Your status on the team’s pecking order should not diminish your love to practice, hang with your teammates and be a part of something bigger than yourself. It may fly against the self esteem-building zealots we are evolving into, but the value of teamwork will forever be a hallmark of great achievements.
I have always thought there should be two team pictures taken, one at the start of the year, before the storm hits, and another at the end of the year. In that final snapshot there is a team, no numbers, no names, just faces of teammates – all of equal value – that weathered the storm.