Elite Performance Mind Coach Denis Coen gives us insight and tips into simple practical mental skills and effective coping strategies to allow you to unleash your true potential in sport. This time we look at building trust in a team environment.

Building a championship winning panel can be a very challenging, daunting and complicated task. Getting a team, whether in business or sport, to come together to achieve a vision is never going to be easy. Why? Because athletes come from different backgrounds with different values and beliefs. They all think and behave differently also and therefore, building a successful panel is a process. You can’t expect a group of individuals to come together and become a fantastic team without looking at some of the barriers that may hinder the success of a club or organisation.


Recognising the dysfunctions within a team, evaluating and discussing them can bring about unity and consistency within the panel. The implications of not been able to discus and see dysfunctions within your team will be the result of underlying tension among the athletes. If such tensions exist the performance of the team will be affected.

Like fitness testing, the attitudes and behaviours of athletes need to be measured and discussed regularly. Just because a player gives a verbal commitment at the beginning of the year does not mean his commitment will remain reliable. Likewise, a player that may seem like a team player may have his own individual agenda for the season.

Having an individual agenda that does not correspond with the team goals and vision will also have an effect on team morale and performance. And you know that low team morale is a major confidence killer to any team. Having worked with various teams over the years I have distinguished many different dysfunctions of a championship winning team. One of those dysfunctions is the lack of trust.


Trust is the primary foundation for building a championship winning panel. It is a critical part of team building and it really and truly is at the heart of teamwork. Failure to understand or build trust is the result of team players and team members not been able to open up to one another.

Having worked with various teams in different sports over the years I have found that players have difficulty opening up to each other. Understanding a teammate’s emotions and motivations will result in team unity. Therefore, it’s important to understand how teammates feel and think. Sport is an emotional game. We may not always admit this but it is true. To build trust one must learn to value the emotions of their teammates.


Teams that win championships do not hold back. They are completely open with one another and aren’t afraid to admit to their mistakes and weaknesses. They will seek help for their weaknesses from teammates and work on them and they will work hard to learn from their mistakes. Weaknesses may not always be physical or tactical within a team or panel. A player’s weakness maybe a behavioural or mental one that has a negative impact on the panel. It is important to be open and honest about this also. By challenging and rectifying a behavioural or mental weakness will more than likely increase the performance and success of a team.

Having trust means having confidence in your teammate and having confidence in the direction and vision of the team. When trust is at the core of a championship team, team members are more likely to commit to the process of a common goal. No matter how difficult the process, team players will stay committed to it during the ups and downs. When trust is evident there is an absence of suspicion and fear among the players. The players will depend on each other and believe that each and every one in the panel is capable of performing to get a job done.

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