FIFA and the Art of Team Building – World Cup 2014

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FIFA and Team Building – The 2014  World Cup has begun, and while soccer has not always been the most loved American sport, I would defy you to find a bar not currently packed with fans wearing their team colors. And with almost 4 million people streaming the game as of this week, it is likely that someone in your office is watching the game while they work.

With football having stormed the collective consciousness of the American people this month, there is an opportunity to investigate the formation of a truly top team, and see what team building lessons we can take from FIFA back into our daily lives.

Building a Better Team

Jurgen Klinsmann does not get paid to speak in platitudes, or falsely flatter his team; he is paid to coach the US men’s national team. Recently, he was quoted in The New York Times as saying “we cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet.” This may come off as negative, especially from the coach of the team himself, but this is what makes Klinsmann perfect for American team building. He is not an unrealistic idealist – he is pragmatic, he understands his team, and he knows what steps he needs to take to grow their performance towards success.

Klinsmann is not alone in this understanding of what it will take to improve American soccer team building; Tony Lepore, the director of the scouting for the United States, implemented a series of changes to the way Major League Soccer develops its players, which are just starting to manifest in today’s national players. These tracks will be familiar to anyone trying to do team building and employee development in the business world.

Crossover Game

Lepore knew that to build a better American team, he would have to start coaching, and begin this training at the base level of entry. By increasing the developmental focus on young players, Major League Soccer was able to start bringing up these new recruits in a new tradition and style of play, forming and establishing behaviors that would allow them to perform and succeed at new levels. For Lepore, this meant creating a streamlined, nation wide agenda; one that was aligned with the countries goal of fielding a team capable of winning the World Cup.

America won their first game of the Cup against Ghana two days ago, and they did so because of the emphasis that Klinsmann, Lepore, and others placed on team building and behavioral alignment. They were able to focus the American players on a wider objective goal, train and coach their skills to a higher level of performance, and incorporate them from a free-for-all style of play to a single cohesive unit. The American soccer team benefited greatly from applying these basic team building efforts – imagine what you could do with your reps and workplace teams if you applied the same techniques?

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