So, the Toronto Blue Jays have made some changes. Turning over 1/4 of their roster is pretty significant. This “all in” approach is very exciting, for sure. But, the results remain to be seen. Can it bring about the necessary changes to push them toward the playoffs? Can it propel them forward? At the time of writing, the Blue Jays sit 6 games back of the AL East leading Yankees and 2 back of the Wild Card spot. With two months remaining, can these moves give this team the boost they need to end the 22 year playoff drought?
Perhaps. But, I wondered just what this kind of boost can do to a team’s psychology. Can the confidence boost help them? How does confidence help a team? Can it help the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays?
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If you look at the Blue Jays’ roster after the moves they made, you see 2 All Stars added to the 3 they already had. The 5 are Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista and David Price. And these aren’t just fluke All Stars. These are among the very best at their respective positions. When you add players of that caliber, it sends a message: “This is a team that is believed in. This team can win”. That confidence from management is what sports teams and businesses all preach about; putting belief in your team. The confidence that trickles down creates positive results.
Toronto Blue Jays
Let’s look at it from a team perspective. Take the walk off win against the Royals from 2 games ago. When Tulo was driven home by Donaldson in the 11th inning, it has a positive impact on the rest of the lineup. Seeing two of your top players perform with success has everyday players and those on the bench feeling like they too can be successful.
To explain this, Sports Psychologist, Dr Costas Karageorghis, of Brunell University provides an example of this team success. In 2004, the British men’s 4X100 saw their teammate, Kelly Holmes’ gold medal win and it had a positive impact on them. They were the underdog heading into the race against the reigning champions, the Americans. They ended up winning gold themselves. “Being involved with the success of others can also significantly bolster your confidence…In effect, it evokes the reaction: ‘if they can do it, I can do it’.”
Could the Blue Jays take that success against the Royals and turn it into a team feeling or belief in each other and themselves? Can the individual success of a few have an overall impact on everyone and consequently, the entire team, thus propelling them forward toward the playoffs? Just by seeing All Stars do what All Stars do, can the whole team play at a higher level thanks to the shared confidence? It certainly is possible. But, how?
In discussing how to build a culture of team confidence, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School and chair and director of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative made a link between business and sports teams, which has often been made.
"“The culture and support system that surrounds high performers helps them avoid temptations [toward negativity]. They can put troubles in perspective because they are ready for them. They rehearse through diligent practice and preparation; they remain disciplined and professional. Their leaders put facts on the table and review what went right or wrong in the last round, in order to shore up strengths and pinpoint weaknesses and to encourage personal responsibility for actions. They stress collaboration and teamwork—common goals; commitment to a joint vision; respect and support for team members, so when someone drops the ball, someone else is there to pick it up—and responsibility for mentoring, so the best performers lift everyone’s capabilities.”"
It is not just seeing your teammates being successful on the field, but the preparation and dialogue before and after a game that will have a positive effect on the Toronto Blue Jays. We’ve heard how Donaldson loves to dissect hitting. We constantly see Bautista talking and guiding the defense in the outfield. It is these conversations, combined with strong performance, that could propel this team forward. In sports, we hear all the time how important preparation is. And, it seems all the best players are applauded for their work ethic. The Blue Jays have quite the collection of these types of players. Heck, evenKevin Pillar
was described as one of the hardest workers in the Blue Jays system by Jesse Goldberg-Strassler when he appeared on our Jays’ Nest Podcast.
So, what does this mean for the Toronto Blue Jays? While we should not expect them to go undefeated for the rest of the year, we should expect to see a boost within this team. If they truly gel as a team, they will feed off each other. Success begets success. The success of individuals will rub off on others, making them feel like they to can succeed. Management certainly was successful during the Trade Deadline. That will rub off on the players and so on. The preparation and responsibility now lies on the players and coaches. Can they use this confidence and make a real push toward the playoffs?
Everyone who watches sports knows a team that is playing with confidence when they see it. Even tough it is not something we can put our finger on, a team that plays with swagger is a dangerous team. Can the Toronto Blue Jays be that dangerous team down the stretch? They have the pieces in place to make it possible. It remains to be seen whether they can put it all together and end the playoff drought.