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The 4 Stages Of Team Development

posted by Coach Dawn Writes
Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 6:02pm EDT

My blog is a place for coaches at all levels who are interested in building teams, motivating their student athletes, and coaching ideas that work. You won't find drills or job postings there, but you will find thoughts from a self-proclaimed coaching nerd who wants to help coaches and teams thrive.

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If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for ways to understand team development.  Jeff Janssen does a good job explaining the stages in his Championship Team Building book and I enjoyed the S-Curve Trend of Team Development from a team building blog called, Create Learning. I believe that winning and losing hinge on team development, which makes it a critical piece to any coach’s season planning.  Team development is as much art as it is science and I’m sure we’re all looking for fresh ideas to tackle an on-going issue.

The four stages that teams go through

  • Infancy.  This is when our teams are developing an orientation toward one another, feeling each other out.  During infancy, trust is established and each person is trying to figure out where they fit in relation to the team.  For coaches, the focus isn’t necessarily on performance, but making sure everyone has a role and understands how to execute it.
  • Growth.  This stage is a time of high productivity.  Goals are clear and everyone on the team is committed to achieving those goals.  For coaches, the focus is on increasing team chemistry and synergy.  Synergy is when a group of two or more folks get together to achieve a goal that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish solo.
  • Maturity.  This is when our team’s attention is on sustaining the high productivity from the growth phase.  Maintaining a high level of team output is the key to maturity.  For coaches, this is the time we should start thinking about preparing for the next s-curve to begin.
  • Decline.  While the word “decline” sounds bad, it’s really a time for assessment.  What worked and what didn’t?  Should you have a player switch positions? What could the coaching staff have done better?  Was the team properly prepared for success?  Should we build a season plan similar to this one or scrap it and start new?
  • (Bonus) Secondary s-curve:  Then the team starts up again the next season…now armed with the knowledge they’ve accumulated from previous years.  In theory, each s-curve should be higher than the last as your team grows together.  That’s why, more times than not, a team of seniors will experience more success than a team of freshman.


I think it’s interesting to look at these kinds of things as we think critically about our teams, our seasons, and how we’ll prepare for success.

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