Forming the Team

This week marks the first week of our summer OTAs (Organized Team Activities).  From the outside looking in, our evening training sessions appear to be 30+ high school athletes working hard to get bigger, faster and stronger. We are installing read progressions, match zone coverages and beginning to build the base of repetitions that will in time, become second nature.  Simultaneously, we are building our 2019 team and developing this year’s culture as we go through the five stages of Tuckman’s Model of Team Development (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning).

As is always the case, forming takes time, and coaches are the most prescriptive. Undoubtedly fundamental components are emphasized, as is attention to detail in every aspect of preparation and practice. 2019-06-13 StormingEven returning veterans of the program benefit from the mental adjustments catalyzed by sharp, pointed direction, and the shrill of a coach’s whistle. Life is no longer “normal.” Players are reminded “games are not won on Fridays and Saturdays in the Fall…” Players new and old are candidly reminded of their responsibilities and commitments to teammate and team. Coaches relay the importance of setting a personal example… an example of what it means to be a Hilltopper on and off the field, as well as in the community.

This early in the process, tasks are relatively simple, initial goals have an element of challenge, but are largely attainable on individual levels as we begin to build incremental momentum born out of success. Friction will intentionally be injected into the routines of formations, schemes, and techniques, but it will be surmountable. These initial “forming” steps serve a distinct purpose. Mental placement… mindset… is equally if not more important than foot or hand placement. If we don’t get the mind aligned to the team’s goals and objectives, and clearly convey our expectations for the character traits at the core of who we are, the best playbook on Earth isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Who will be the Hilltoppers of 2019? Last year’s seniors are gone, replaced by this year’s incoming players.  This is a new team with new talents. As we begin OTAs, team members’ roles and responsibilities may be unclear.  As coaches, we will provide this newly formed group with guidance, direction and baseline expectations.  Standards will be set and adhered to. We will see some of our older, returning players step up to welcome new players to the group.  As coaches, we want to see the example they set for younger teammates or players potentially brand new to the game. It can be said that integrity drives us to do the right thing whether someone is watching or not…

Coaches will indeed be watching, and so will players. Some we expect to step into leadership roles will do so. Others may not. Some may surprise us and rise to levels of leadership unanticipated, but all will need to put the interests of the team above their own. All must recognize starting positions are earned, and the opportunity to lead their teammates is a privilege.

As we forge the common vision of who we want to be and what we want to attain. We reinforce that vision with common values and beliefs in our ability to measure up to the challenges that confront us. We develop belief in ourselves and one another. We instill trust, respect, and forge the bonds of relationships capable of seeing us through adversity and success. Good team culture is founded in relationships.  The process of building effective relationships begins this week. I invite you to join us for this year’s journey!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

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