Sills, WVU Put Team Chemistry High On Priority List
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s 2018 spring football practices contained the twin work processes of individual improvement and situational work, but a somewhat less definable dynamic was also on the to-do list for the Mountaineers during their earlier-than-usual spring season. It’s something that is valued highly, discussed often, but somewhat nebulous — team chemistry.
There are probably as many definitions of “team chemistry” as there are elements on the periodic table of elements. Building from those is just as complex, as there’s no one “right way” to get everyone in the locker and meeting rooms pulling in the same direction. Team building exercises, success on the field, valuing group accomplishments over self — they all go into the process.
The hope, of course, is that good chemistry functions as a building block for winning. There are many other factors that go into achieving that final goal, but without team buy-in, it’s probably not going to happen. Wide receiver David Sills, along with other leaders of the 2018 WVU football team, knows the value of building that base.
“It starts with just having a good group of guys in the locker room,” he said, with the unspoken message that ‘me-first’ or bad character individuals are poison to the process. “A lot of guys have some great character, a lot of great leadership. I feel like this year we have great leadership, not that we didn’t have that in the past. I just feel that this year is very special with our locker room, and the guys we have in there are good character. We all really have the same goals and that is to just win on the field. I feel like we have done a good job at doing that. That’s really where the team chemistry comes from — having that good character in the locker room, good leadership so that everyone can follow the group of guys that are leading the team.”
Improving chemistry has to come from the players themselves, for the most part. Coaches, with limited time interacting with players, can only play an auxiliary role there, although they can contribute with consistent messages and coaching actions. Strength and conditioning staffers are important, especially in the offseason, when they have more time with the players than the coaching staff does, especially from April through July. But it falls to the players, and leaders like Sills, to cultivate that inclusion and keep position groups and units working for the same goals.
Individual improvement in game skills is still on the menu, but Sills quickly circles back to the team aspect when discussing the important factors in the concluded spring season.
“I tried to get better with my game, but one thing is that we need to be better as a team,” he reiterated, including both on-field and off-field performance. “That’s something that we focused on in the spring — being a better team and a better unit. It’s obviously competition, but at the same time you are trying to get both sides of the ball better and then get better in fall camp.”
Judgement on the success or failure of the chemistry experiment often has to wait until during or after the season. It’s also often tied up with wins and losses – squads that put up good win totals are automatically assumed to be working well together, while those encountering sub-par seasons go under the microscope for examinations of disgruntlement. That’s a hazard of today’s society, but the one truth at the core is that teams which don’t work together won’t achieve success levels that they otherwise should have.
On the field, Sills, like head coach Dana Holgorsen, believed the team got all the work in it needed to during the spring, despite missing out on the last opportunity to work during the Gold-Blue spring game, which was cancelled due to snow and forecast poor weather.
“Definitely every practice is very valuable, and only getting 14 this year, you want to take every time you get out there as a chance to get better,” the senior wide receiver said. “We did that this year, everybody came to practice, ready to practice, ready to play with a good energy throughout the whole practice. We felt good about our spring ball, felt like we got a lot done and we feel good going into summer and into fall camp.”