In the NZ cycling environment one of our biggest challenges is instilling a team dynamic in our riders so they are ready for the realities of cycling on the world stage. With competitive racing in NZ being reasonably low in numbers our riders are not used to working with others and have had to survive by looking after number one.
This works fine in small fields with little or no team tactics but in large fields with teams and riders working towards one plan this approach does not work. As a team Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling have developing a team first-approach as one of our primary goals. Having this as a goal is easy but achieving it is the challenge!
The key components we have identified and are working on:
Before anything else we look to have riders in our team that share the belief that a team-first culture is one of our key goals and that learning to work as a team and share successes and learn from mistakes is MORE important than results.
A key factor in developing a team-first approach is developing trust amongst the riders. Riders need to trust that all members of the team ‘have their backs’ and will do everything to achieve their role within the team. Trust does not develop overnight and as a team we work towards developing this before the season with a pre-season camp, during the season with racing and over several seasons by maintaining a strong core of riders that have learnt to trust each other over the years.
Just as importantly as trust between riders is trust of the support and management team. We hope to instil a trust within our riders that we will do everything possible to create a racing environment that will allow ALL the riders to learn and perform to their best.
The final component of trust is the understanding that we are all learning and that we won’t get it right first time or every time.
Honesty is another key element in success as a team. Riders need to be willing to share their strengths and weaknesses together, to self-evaluate and to evaluate and discuss how the team performed against its race goals. Pre-race rider self-evaluation, pre-race team meetings and planning and post-race de-briefs and post-race self-evaluation are key tools we use to help our riders and the team plan and learn from each race.
To truly learn to work together and trust each other as a team our riders need to be open to trying new roles and executing different race strategies. All our riders are young and are still developing and finding their strengths and weaknesses. Our philosophy is you are ALREADY a winner if you try but you can never win by not trying.
Closely tied in with this is the perception of ‘failing’ if you are dropped or if you don’t finish high up in the results. This is probably one of the hardest attitudes to change and is one of the reasons overall team honours for each race and the series is not high on our list. Instead our riders are judged on the execution of their role – did they do everything possible to fulfil it – if they did then success and if they didn’t but identified that then that is a learning and success as well!
All too often in women’s pelotons in NZ they race by and all is quiet! Go overseas and quite the opposite is true with communication in all forms from quiet through to rather instructive (yelling) going on. We are working on all our riders communicating regularly with instruction, encouragement, congratulations, and discussion between our riders being actively sought after and encouraged. This will take time but we will get there!
The last key element in performing as a team is ensuring we have leadership and mentoring within each team. This is something we identified as needing more work and attention from previous seasons. As we don’t have any ‘super’ experienced riders in our team this is also very much a learning and developing approach.
Leadership on the road is something that is lacking in NZ teams and becomes clearly evident when racing overseas. As Kiwis we tend to be more reserved and ‘afraid’ to tell others what to do so changing this attitude will take time and patience but can and should be learned. Leadership is only possible if the other team attributes such as belief, trust, honesty and learning are in place – without these leadership will not work!
We encourage multi levels of leadership within each team so we can respond to various scenarios on the road and look at giving opportunities for all our riders to take on leadership roles throughout the season. Another change this season is to have leadership within the team develop race strategies with our support and team management facilitating rather than driving this approach.
So for Mike Greer Homes Womens cycling Team in 2017 a team-first approach is our primary goal for the season. We know as we work on this our results both domestically and internationally are sure to improve and our riders will gain skills that are sought after by professional teams!