In professional sports the ongoing recruitment and development of a team is vital for sustained success. Regardless of the constraints of salary caps and drafts, the challenge is how do we make our people better and when and how do we need to change them?
Rebuilding a team doesn’t always mean changing the people. In a high performing environment which encourages development, part of the rebuild can be a change of position for a team member. There are a number of high profile examples of this – Darren Lockyer moved from fullback to five eighth at the Broncos midway through his career, Cooper Cronk was an interchange player initially with the Storm before mastering the halfback position and in cricket Matthew Wade has returned to the Australian test team as a batsman 5 years after losing his spot as the wicket keeper.
When it comes to bringing in new people you can do this by either buying on the market or developing your own. Buying a player is the best solution for immediate results. You know the player has talent and they are already performing at a high level, but what about their character? It’s important to find out as much about the person and their attitude as possible. Talent is cheap, it’s everywhere. Will this player help build the team or are they a potential cancer to the group? In my experience character beats talent all the time. There is a balance, and you can’t win without talent, however it is extremely important to protect the overall team environment. If there is sufficient doubt on a potential recruit’s character, be prepared to walk away and protect your team.
Developing your own players is by far the most sustainable method of ensuring a long-term supply of both talent and character for the team. You select the player and have total control over the way their skill level, technique and most importantly attitude is developed within the team’s system. When you trust young players that you have cared for and developed, they rarely let you down. As they progress in their careers, they form the identity and spirit of the team and are more likely to develop into strong leaders. A steady stream of young talent makes the decisions involved in strengthening your team for the longer term clearer and easier to make. This method can take a lot of risk out of your business.
Constantly assessing and rebuilding a team is the most important part of any sporting organisation or business. Your people and their ability to use their talents collectively are what drives results. When making decisions on whether to recruit a player to my club or select a player in the team, resilience, work ethic and grit were the highest priority. I would ask myself when everything goes wrong during a final and we are under enormous pressure – will this guy be there for his teammates? It’s in these times that no one cares what your resume looks like or how much potential you have.
Finally, the hardest part of this process is letting people go, or more specifically knowing when to let them go. Loyalty is important but entitlement is dangerous to the team. When a player wants to stop working but still expects to be in the team, you must act – for themselves and the team’s benefit. The right people will respond for you if you’re loyal. Some of the best players I have worked with performed at their highest level well into their 30s. Because of their character and pride they invariably knew when time was up. Yet another benefit of having good people in your team.