The Importance of Chemistry


Photo Credit: Maureen Lingle

We’ve seen it so many times over the years: teams stack their rosters with as much pure talent as possible and think that they will win championships, and just roll people simply because they have the best talent on the field. College teams do this all the time with recruiting, pro teams try to do it a lot, and even high schools can get in on the action. Sometimes it works and you find a combination that actually clicks and you start to destroy people.

Of course, you also have the overpowering example of college football (and its associated polls), and schools like UT Austin and West Virginia, in the Big 12 Conference. West Virginia was ranked in the Top 10 in the AP Poll for a couple weeks in the beginning of the season because they had so much raw talent in the form of Geno Smith and his wide receivers, and they were winning games. UT is always given a leg up because the program has a tradition of winning and landing big talent. Even my beloved Oklahoma Sooners were given too much top-of-the-poll consideration this season, simply because they had a lot of known names.

The fact is, raw talent does not mean that a team will win a championship.  The Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, Syracuse’s lacrosse team a couple years back… The list goes on and on. Talent doesn’t always win. The point that I’m trying to make with all this talk about talent is that it is NOT the single most important factor in creating a team that is going to win games. Chemistry, however, is.

I believe you can have a mid-range team in terms of talent, but if they all know each other and can play with each other like it’s second nature, then you have a pretty elite team all of a sudden. Add in the desire to pull in the same direction and the squad can be lethal, even without the big names. This is especially true with lacrosse because you are able to pinpoint someone’s tendencies if you really know each other. The more a lacrosse team grows together and knows each other on the field, the more dangerous they become.

At Saint Anselm College, where I currently play, there has been a lack of team chemistry in the past. The talent has been there and so has the experience, but there has been a lack of that certain closeness, that feeling that everyone on the team was equal and together in the same fight, and that there was complete trust amongst the team. This year, we have tried to change that and it has changed the way that we approach the field and the game itself, for the better.

We have more fun in practice because we know that we are out there enjoying every second of what we’re doing. We get to play the game that we all love, so it makes sense. We know that we all want to win, and we build each other up, and work to make sure that winning happens, whenever it is possible.

Looking back, team chemistry has brought a couple wins that we can point to as great moments in the season. While we only won five games this year, many were games where we came together and did what we needed to do to pull it out in the end and get the W.  The losses that we have sustained have all been tough, but some have been more palatable than others because of the way that we played.  We know that in those games where we played well with each other we could have beaten those teams, and won those games, if just a couple more things had gone our way. I think we recognize our progress.

Lacrosse is truly a game of momentum and runs, and if that momentum changes at any moment, it could change the entire outcome of the game.  That’s what makes the team aspect so critical because a change in momentum could also be used as motivation to hit back and get the tide to turn in your favor.

Sports teams are families.  No matter what happens, we always have each other’s backs.  The teams that don’t have that feeling about each other don’t succeed because they all fold at the first sign of adversity.  The Louisville men’s basketball team was all in tears when they saw what happened to their teammate because they truly cared about what happened to him and were horrified to see something terrible like that happen to one of their own.

I know that the kids on my team are going to be people that I know for the rest of my life and will never forget.  The trials and tribulations that we go through together bring us closer, and make the team stronger in the end.

And that breeds success.