Play Ball!


imagesSorry, I haven’t posted for a while — and here’s why:

(Look for new post in the next week or so.)

1) I’m working on a new book about successful group culture. I’m focused on underdog organizations (sports teams, businesses, schools) that succeed despite the odds; groups that are far more than the sum of their parts — in short, groups where two plus two equals 10. I’m focused on the invisible, intangible stuff: culture, cohesion, chemistry, trust, purpose, and seeing how those work. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I hope to stop reporting and start writing soon. One slight problem: the reporting is kind of addictive.

2) I’m also spending time working with my adopted-hometown team, the Cleveland Indians, focusing on talent-development innovation. It’s been a blast, and the organization is nothing short of terrific. We spent two weeks of spring training in Arizona, and while I can’t reveal too many details, I can confirm that Nick Swisher’s bro hugs are exactly as powerful as you’d imagine them to be. Tonight is opening night for the Indians — so Go Tribe!

If you have any thoughts about either of these projects, I’d love to hear them.

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19 Responses to “Play Ball!”

  1. Hi Daniel,

    Two examples spring to mind!

    Greece winning the European Championships with no known stars – just a team full of grit, cohesion and determination. Preparation was key for this team and being a team that didn’t have the pressure and weight of the country weighing them down (which most countries do), they were able to play without fear of failure!

    Rarely does a story of the underdog occur in England without the mention of Wimbledon FC’s victory in the FA Cup Final against the mighty Liverpool, the most successful team in English soccer at that time. The team then went on to build a team that was the epitome of grit and determination and would grind out results against the best teams in the land.

    Hope these are of interest to you!

  2. TIm Clark says:

    Sounds great. I’m sure you’ve looked at Butler basketball, Jason Belzer had a good take on it in Forbes and the role of the “catalyst” player. Michael Lewis had an article on the “no stats all star” and almost invisible but undeniable difference they make. Can’t wait to read your new stuff.

  3. John says:

    This may not be along the same lines, but the Christian church in China immediately came to mind when I read your post. Despite years of persecution (battling the odds), it is one of the fastest growing groups of Christians in the world.

  4. Walter says:

    Despite being ranked #1 most of the season this years Florida Gators might be the first Florida team that has gone to the final 4 WITHOUT any of their starters projected to play in the NBA next season! At least with that “Butler” team, they had one who was drafted and was projected to go in the first round and is currently with the Utah Jazz!
    Let’s not forget the USA mens hockey team from the past who were all college level kids!

  5. Daniel says:

    The All Blacks of New Zealand rugby team. Have one of the best winning percentages of any proffessional sport in the world in over 100 years of rugby. Yet, they come from one of the smallest countries playing the game with a population of just around 4 million people (Compared to Australia, South Africa, England, Ireland, Wales, France etc.) They are huge on culture and maximizing any edge they can get.

  6. Sum Gai says:

    It may be worthwhile to talk about how the label of underdog gets applied. I mean to say that it is inherently an information problem, because no one believes the underdog has the ability to beat the top dog… but in reality they do. The interesting thing about that is that if you know what makes an underdog win then you know what wins in reality and not what people believe will make them win. The top dog has the recognition and often the resources, but after having lost to the underdog they are shown to have focused those resources on the wrong things.

    good luck!

  7. Sam says:

    I’m a college basketball coach and got my masters in sport psychology last year. One of the things that I’ve always been curious about is the effect of winning and how it alters the other variables(Team cohesion and winning, perceptions of the coach behavior/leadership style and winning, intrinsic motivation and winning,etc). Often times in the existing literature, researchers say that these variables lead TO winning… but winning seems to cure an awful lot.

  8. Keith Wahl says:

    I want to point you to Valor Christian and the first two football coaches in the school’s history, Brent Vieselmeyer and Rod Sherman. These two guys have led football programs to a series of championships in California and now the past five state championships in Colorado. They have been successful growing two programs to the highest classification in each state. Focus on culture, cohesion, chemistry…they should be a part of your study. Brent has since moved on to Houston Baptist and Rod is the Athletic Director. These guys are special.

  9. Dai Ellis says:

    Check out Excel Academy in Boston — most amazing school culture (student culture flowing from adult culture) I’ve ever seen, combining extraordinarily high expectations with tremendously safe, supportive learning environment. Cool to be a geek. Bullies become softies. Despite serving almost exclusively low-income, mostly Latino students the school outperforms the suburban school districts around Boston. Takes basic playbook from KIPP & other no-excuses schools and pushes to next level; not a drill-and-kill environment. Happy to connect if helpful.

  10. Dennis says:

    Groups overachieve when members don’t care who gets credit for successes.

  11. Patrick says:

    No surprise the Indians, led by Mark Shapiro whose influences come from the glory days of Baltimore Oriole baseball, is fun to work with and a progressive thinking organization! Leadership matters.

  12. djcoyle says:

    Excel sounds fascinating, Dai — thanks very much! I’ll check it out. I really appreciate the suggestion — as well as all the other suggestions here.

  13. Tom says:

    USA Men’s Volleyball. Only 20 or 25 D I college programs in the entire nation and no professional league, yet have won 3 gold medals and a bronze medal since 1984. This is over the likes of Russia and Brazil which have massive pro leagues and thousands of people playing the sport from their youth. A select group of teachers and players all congregated at the same time and created a legacy. Fascinating stuff.

  14. James says:

    Passion, trust in leadership, relentlessness and a willingness to take a risk that “favorites” are not. Culture is incredibly important to any successful sports team, and the successful cultures are driven by passionate and relentless players. Those players have a leader whose message and meaning they believe in. Finally, underdogs are usually willing to work that much harder, to look to new areas and challenge conventional thinking: “you can’t do that, no one does that” is an obstacle they overcome. I cannot wait to read your new insights and book/project. The best example for me is the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, well documented but really was about passion and belief (along with a few superb performances in Lake Placid).

  15. Gregor says:

    An excellent subject to look at more closely. I’m sure that there are many common traits between high performing groups that can be adopted by teams around the world. I believe that the overall culture in the group is more important than ability of the individuals and coach involved. But someone – the coach or team leader(s) – is required to ensure that this culture is both established and maintained. From an international perspective, the All Blacks would be a great culture to focus on – James Kerr’s ‘Legacy’ is a wonderful book that encapsulates how they have achieved their most recent success, winning the World Cup in 2011.

  16. David Trujillo says:

    Dan, It is exciting to see that you are writing a book about groups. I’m about to start a new teaching gig this August. I have been given the opportunity to start a band (an all brass band, drum corps style)at a small Catholic high school here in Sacramento. The school has NO music program and last week when I started my recruiting we had NO band members and the school has NO instruments. All the students who attend Cristo Rey live below the poverty line. As of this writing 16 kids have signed up and I have yet to talk to the incoming freshmen. I told them that our band was going to be AWESOME and they believe me. You see I know something they don’t, I’m a master coach. I have been using Talent Codes principles since I was 19, I’m 63 now, so I know that when we start our first rehearsals they will say that the things we are weird, which they will be, but they will become a good group very quickly and in time will excel. I just wanted you to know because knowing the outcome is a by-product of the code.

  17. djcoyle says:

    Hey David, That is fantastic — thanks so much for sharing your story. Please keep us posted!

  18. djcoyle says:

    Gregor, Thanks very much! Funny, I was just reading “Legacy,” and I cannot agree more. They are absolutely incredible. I’ll definitely be looking into them.

  19. Jimmy says:

    Hi Daniel, I would love to hear more about the work you are doing with the Indians. As a fellow baseball coach I think the insight would be invaluable.

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