Olympic Teamwork Tactics for Peak Performance

10 Nov 17 | Charles van Commenee

Charles van Commenee is a world leading coaching expert and the former Head of UK Athletics who led Team GB to Olympic success at the London 2012 Olympics. Here Charles draws on his experiences and outlines his top 3 teamwork tactics that will help lead you and your teams to achieve a high-performance culture in your organisation.

Shared Values

It has to be clear what the team values are and the behaviours needed to support them. A team value like discipline for instance, or openness, or honesty – what do these values actually mean in terms of required behaviours? Everybody needs to understand the shared values of the team, it gives the team identity, which is very important, especially for newcomers. It’s very difficult to change values from one day to the next and live accordingly. But for newcomers, having values in place makes it much easier.

Don’t underestimate the importance of instilling these within your team, it’s something that you should spend more time on from the very start.

Common Goals

Every team needs to have a good understanding of what their common goals are. In the run-up to London 2012, my team’s goal was to win 8 medals, that was our target. One year before the games I could see that Mo Farah could bring us two medals. Now you have to understand that for endurance runners (athletes who run more than one lap), their Exercise Physiologist is crucial to their performance. They measure blood values, tell you when to take longer recovery, when to train on altitude, when to change the intensity or volume of training. I decided one year from the games that that person should spend all of their time with Mo Farah. We had 20-odd other endurance athletes on the team, I took that essential service away from the others in order to secure those two medals. It was purely due to the result of having the common goal of winning 8 medals, and it had to be understood by every team member that the interest of the team doesn’t always go together with the interest of the individual.

Clarity of Roles

It has to be clear what everyone’s roles are, and that you understand what is expected of you. In sport, we say: “Coaches coach“, “Directors direct“, “Managers manage” and “Athletes compete“. If everybody sticks to their roles, you will have a pretty professional organisation and things will run smoothly. For instance, when an athlete is hurt and needs surgery, it needs to be clear when the Surgeon will be in charge, when the Exercise Physiologist will take over, when will the Physiotherapist dictate what needs to be done, when is the Coach back in charge and when is the Athlete able to make their own call again? It is that clarity of roles that ensures everything runs smoothly and nothing is missed.

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Charles van Commenee

Charles van Commenee


The mastermind behind the most successful night in GB Athletics history, Charles Van Commenee, the current Head Coach of Dutch ...