Dropping someone from the Team – what can sport teach us?


It’s a cold January morning in Leeds. In the training room we have 7 Senior Managers from an Award winning, market-leading, Yorkshire based company. The session is part of a comprehensive leadership Programme, and the focus of this session is Resilience. Delivering the session is one of our leading corporate trainers, together with one of our leading athlete deliverers, Crista Cullen. Along with her gold medal from the Rio Olympics (GB Women’s Hockey) Crista has brought with her some fantastic insight into a resilient mindset, and how it played out in their gold-medal winning campaign. Two and a half hours of content and interactive exercises is followed by an exclusive half hour Q&A with Crista. Amidst a range of questions, one stands out: “How do you know when it’s time to drop someone from the team?” Our corporate deliverer has a wry smile. Why? Because this is a question that is asked of our athlete deliverers time and time again.

So what are the key answers that our athletes give in these situations?

1. Has the coach done everything possible to get the best out of them?

Have they taken the time to really understand the person behind the player? Have they worked out how best to motivate them? Have they recognised their strengths and leveraged those accordingly? Have they supported them with their key development needs?


2. Do they still fit the team’s tactics?

What happens if you have a player who plays a certain type of rugby. But then your team changes its playing approach. If that player can’t or won’t adapt, and no longer suits the team’s tactics, then it’s probably time to drop them. Yes it’s hard, but if the fit isn’t right, it’s in no one’s interest to prolong the pain.

3. Attitude

Professor Steve Black has worked with athletes and teams for over 30 years, with one of his most notable clients being Jonny Wilkinson CBE. We love this quote from him: “Attitude is infectious and highly contagious. Is YOURS worth catching.” Team culture is key to success in sport, just as it is in business. Just look at what Norwich City have achieved this year, much of it down to Team culture (and at a very quick glance, just sticking to football, you could substitute numerous other high performing squads including Leicester City in their League winning season and Manchester City for the last three years). Each team tends to form their own norms and behavioural patterns, but this can also be guided and steered by conscious thought, discussion, agreement and example. So important to success is this that the All Blacks have their famous ‘No Dickheads’ policy. And why did the England Selectors drop Kevin Pietersen all those years back? Certainly not because his cricket wasn’t good enough. Teams don’t need identikit robots, in fact diversity (in all forms, including thought and perspective) is key; but successful teams do tend to have an agreed attitude and mindset, with everyone working hard to display it day in day out.

We’re experts at helping your business apply the best that sport can offer to some of your key challenges. We’d love to help – to discuss some ideas you can contact us on 01904 737 007 or info@sportandbeyond.co.uk.