Championship teams learn to meld skills

As we ease into postseason sports, thoughts hover around what makes for a winning team.

Maybe it’s like cooking, with a base of great athletes surrounded by a terrific supporting cast.

Maybe it’s coaches who can teach and get the most out of athletes.

So when I saw a headline saying great teams are about personalities, not just skills, I started thinking of area teams.

First to come to mind was the Omak football team, which is undefeated at 9-0.

The Pioneers, by virtue of a 41-13 win over Okanogan on the last week of the Caribou Trail League season, earned a bye this week before entering state play next week.

The article said for a team to produce all it is capable of, everyone must get along and work well together.

The Pioneers are led by 16 seniors, who I saw working together on the field and in the weight room right along with younger players way back in September when I was getting team photos for our fall sports magazine.

Senior Tanner Hall, who scored four times against Okanogan, was the offense’s leader last season before going down early in a crossover game with Riverside with strained ligaments.

Hall’s scores this year elevated him to a new scoring record for Omak.

But it could not have been accomplished without a “team” effort.

“Tanner is a wonderful back,” Omak coach Nick Sackman said after the game. “He has really worked hard over the last few years in the weight room to put himself in a position to make this great accomplishment possible.

“As great as he is, he also knows there are lots of people who helped him along the way. On Friday after the game he stood up and thanked all the offensive linemen who have been blocking up front and giving him the opportunities to be special at the second level.

“Tanner has been prepared every week and he has a natural ability of finding the right gap to get in the end zone.”

Hall could break more school records behind the Pioneers’ front line, depending on how far they go in the playoffs.

He might have been closer had the scheduled game with Oroville been played Sept. 27. The Hornets reported they needed to forfeit because of injuries and lack of players.

Okanogan knows about pulling together as a team after adversity when its quarterback Bo Silverthorn, a junior, tore up a knee in the fourth quarter against Cashmere on Oct. 18.

The 21-20 loss proved to be the tiebreaker that elevated Cashmere to second place and a state berth.

Okanogan’s team pulled together, and with one week’s preparation at quarterback with sophomore Brad Ingram, the Bulldogs ran off a 42-7 win over Cascade.

“Team leadership is very important, and we strive to have a unified team every year,” Okanogan coach Erick Judd said. “This year we have had quite a few injuries. When a player gets hurt, they are still expected to come to practice and help the next player learn.

“We are always encouraging our team to ‘lead from the top down,’ meaning our seniors encourage our underclass men, teach them and show them the ways of Okanogan Bulldog football.”

Google in 2016 said it had analyzed more than 100 teams over several years and found the secret for the perfect team.

The drivers of effective team performance are the group’s average level of emotional intelligence and a high degree of communication among members.

What was surprising was that the “kinds” of people in a team are not so relevant, said Google.

I kind of go along with “scientific evidence” that finds that individuals’ personalities play a significant role in determining team performance.

Personality affects what role you have within a team, how you interact with the rest of the team and whether your values (core beliefs) align with the team’s, said the article.

I loved playing volleyball, where there is a role for everyone on the floor.

But you have to communicate or that ball will fall without anyone playing on it.

I remember coming back from a match that I felt we should have won but did not.

I asked those in the car why we were playing the matches.

Lots said because they wanted to win.

One couple said for the exercise. They were gone the next season, when we won the league title.

You build long-lasting relationships on winning teams.

What is tricky is how all these athletes combine to make a successful team.

In an email, Grant Parr (, a mental sports performance coach and the author of “The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown,” said there are five traits of successful athletes.

They included applying grit in the face of adversity, turning crisis into opportunity, embracing your role, visualizing success and assuming leadership.

You learn those traits, you will also be successful in the work place and in life.

Al Camp is sports editor for The Chronicle. Email him at

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