Keep it in-house: teams need lessons in Communication 101

Maintaining confidences are important in life as well as in team play. It builds the camaraderie that allows a team to move in a cohesive motion towards the ultimate goal of finishing their season in the number one position. But without it, a team can hit rock bottom quicker than cement shoes tossed into the Atlantic.

When teams encounter locker room issues what should be the code of ethics? Keep quiet about it, discuss it within the team or take it to the streets and discuss it in the press?

“I think those kinds of issues should be handled by teammates and kept inside the locker room,” said Head Coach Tom Palombo. “Everyone needs to be on the same page when you leave the locker room.”

Well said Coach. The answer is obvious, but still others engage in activity that puts further stress on a team.

After Super Bowl XLVI was completed, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady found himself in a hail storm of controversy when his wife, Gisele Bundchen, voiced her opinions in regard to her husband’s teammates play, or lack thereof, during the biggest game of the season.

During the last drive of the game, the Patriot’s receiving corp dropped three significant passes, that could have potentially placed them in position to win the game, en route to losing the game 21-17. They could do nothing as they watched the New York Giants hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in the last five seasons.

As Brady and his teammates sulked in the locker room, Bundchen stated her feelings to a group of fans.

“My husband cannot f***ing throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,” said Bundchen.

Not a good move. The statement sent waves of shock throughout the sports world. But how could Brady control what his wife said? She has her own opinion.

“She was wrong to say things about his teammates,” said Ellen McLawhorn ’08. “Tommy needs to reel her back in.”

As reported by espn.com, several of Brady’s teammates were “disappointed” by Bundchen’s verbal disgust of their play. The statement was not only an offensive slap to the team, and Brady as a team-leader, but also one that was below the belt. The team had not even had a chance to finish taking  showers before the incident occurred.

But most of all, it may result in issues within the team when they begin camp next season.

“Being the high profile player that Brady is, I think its important for him to try and censor family in certain incidents, but I also know it’s practically impossible to do that,” said junior Brandon Thompson. “But, I do believe family should be careful of what they say.”

So what happens when a team has a pariah on the interior of the locker room?

During the 2005 season, the Philadelphia Eagles found out firsthand. As the season began, wide-receiver Terrell Owens came to camp, not a happy-camper. Disgruntled over contract issues, Owens refused to talk to local beat writers and was subsequently sent home and suspended for a week by Head Coach Andy Reid. Upon returning, Owens became upset over the organization not recognizing his one-hundredth career touchdown catch, saying the organization showed a “lack of class”.

In November of the same season, Owens would be suspended an initial four games for conduct detrimental to the team, which would be eventually stretched to suspension for the remainder of the season. As he performed crunches in the driveway of his home, Owens offered no apologies and the Eagles felt the brunt of the emotion as they struggled to a six and ten record on the season.

Could a gentlemanly conversation have healed the gaping wounds caused by the locker room rift? A player with compassion and respect for their team may have taken the higher road.

“I believe that it depends on the privacy and importance of the issue,” said Thompson. “If it is a private issue, I believe it should be discussed privately.”

After finishing the season with a rather mundane eight and eight record, the New York Jets have found themselves bickering out-loud during the offseason after missing the playoffs. After two straight seasons of playing in the AFC Championship game, their success ended as QB Mark Sanchez failed to lead the team to their third championship game in as many seasons.

In an espn.go.com interview, cornerback Darrelle Revis was asked about the blooming turmoil present in the Jets locker room.

“The leaders need to step up, talk to everybody in the building and say, ‘Hey, man, this is our goal this year,” said Revis. “This is what we need to accomplish. Let’s not get into the bickering or the frustrations, because it brings a team down.”

After the streamers stopped falling and the fans had all left the building, Super Bowl XLVI was over. But because of one emotional statement, the fallout may live on into next season.

“I think players should always keep issues private,” said Head Coach Stephanie Flamini. “It shows bad character to insult any member of a program in public.  All Issues should stay within the team so the team can fix them.”

“Sometimes people make mistakes in emotional moments, it was an emotional moment when Tom Brady’s wife said what she did and probably didn’t think first. We live in a society where nothing is really private anymore.”

When a team has an inside issue, it is best kept quiet and between the team. Lack of courtesy for teammates can have devastating results, that will wreck team chemistry and create a locker room filled with tension.

“The team is like a family, and issues come up at times, but you just work through them and move on,” said Jennifer King ’06.

In the words of super-agent Ari Gold, the best thing to do is simply “hug it out.”