What is Team Belief?
There is a common thread that runs through all championship teams… BELIEF!
This belief is not merely each player having a high level of confidence in their own abilities, but a collective belief in that the team has the power or capacity to produce a desired result.
This team belief, also referred to as team efficacy, is what drives a team forward despite setbacks or adversity. We know that confidence in soccer is imperative.
Is team belief a natural attribute of championship teams or can this team attitude be developed?
When Juergen Klinsmann was hired as head coach of the United States men’s national soccer team, his first order of business was to develop that championship mentality in his squad.
Klinsmann often spoke of “team spirit” and wanted his team to band together and respond in a positive manner in tough moments.
“It is a culture that you have to develop to have that belief (in your ability to comeback).”
The U.S. soccer team has been battling to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In their match versus Jamaica, the U.S. squad gave up a late goal as Jamaica tied the game. The U.S. soccer team responded with a dramatic late score to gain a much needed 2-1 road victory over Jamaica.
Klinsmann is convinced that the victory strengthened his team’s confidence and belief in their ability to overcome adversity.
“For every team, when you concede in the last minute and add another one (score a goal), it helps them realize that if you get a knock you can correct it right away.”
The U.S. team exhibited their unwavering belief when they faced their bitter archrival Mexico. The U.S. team needed a victory over Mexico in order to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and the team responded in convincing fashion with a 2-0 victory.
In contrast to the U.S, team’s collective belief, Klinsmann noticed the Mexico players appeared dejected after the first goal by the U.S.
“I think you could feel it in the body language of the Mexican players once they didn’t get a goal that they tried really hard for the first 25 minutes, then they got heavier and heavier. You could see that psychological load in their minds: They start to doubt themselves.”
So how did Klinsmann develop the collective belief of the U.S. squad?
First, Klinsmann stripped players’ names off jersey backs reverting to the old soccer method of assigning numbers according to position with starters receiving numbers 1 through 11.
This action accomplished two objectives: It fostered a sense of team instead of emphasizing individual players and it encouraged competition.
Second, Klinsmann held the players accountable for their level of play. Landon Donovan, star attacker for the U.S. acknowledged the benefits of player responsibility.
“The best thing he’s done is created lots of competition, and so every time you step on the field you have to perform or you’re not going to step on the field the next time. It’s not in a pressure way, but it’s in an accountability way.”
Though the United States qualified for its seventh straight World Cup, the true test of their grit will be next summer against the world’s toughest competition.
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