During last year’s championships, The Wall Street Journal wrote about a study done by researchers at Cal-Berkeley. The VERY academic title of the paper was “Tactile Communication, Cooperation and Performance: An Ethological Study of the NBA.” (Trust me when I tell you the Journal piece was much easier to read than the white paper!) The basic premise: The team that shares the most “physical contact” with each other is an odds-on bet to win it all. The Cal researchers watched every game from an NBA season and reported that the teams that “touched” most often were more trusting, cooler in tough times, played better and won more games.
In last year’s NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks were 82 percent more likely to high-five their teammates than the Heat were, according to the Journal’s review of games. The Mavericks won four games to two, despite the fact they were serious underdogs to the “star-studded” Miami team.
The greatest coach of all time, John Wooden, made it a requirement that whenever his players at UCLA scored a basket that they acknowledge the player who passed them the ball. It could be as simple as a nod or a slap on the behind on the way by, but each player HAD to recognize his teammate. Once, Coach Wooden told me, a player asked: “Coach, what if my teammate isn’t looking when I say thanks.”
Coach Wooden’s response: “Trust me, when you recognize your teammate, he’ll notice.”
There is no doubt that taking time to deliver a high five to a teammate has an impact.