At the end of last season, it was pretty clear that the Philadelphia Eagles had some work to do. Despite an enormous array of talent, they just could not deliver. This year doesn’t seem to be any better. Yes, injuries have hampered their efforts, but it’s pretty clear after their eighth loss – to a team that actually had a worse record coming in to the game — that these guys just don’t play well, together.

It’s been one of their problems for a few years now, to be honest. There just doesn’t seem to be any real teamwork.

As sportswriter Andy Benoit wrote in the July 25 issue of the New York Times when he was assessing last year’s collapse and looking forward to the 2012 season, “The real reason the Eagles underachieved was they never figured out how to properly piece their tremendous individual parts into a fine-turned machine.” Part of the problem may be that the Eagles built a team, but never developed it.

We work with several sports teams, mostly at the collegiate and high school level, and we know that team development is every bit as important as team building. You can have the best players in the sport, but if they don’t know how to work together, to communicate, to trust each other, they will not succeed.

Lafayette College used team development to field a champion.

A couple years ago we worked with the Lafayette College womens’ field hockey team and the results surprised evencoach Andrew Griffiths.

“Activities like (those at Northstar) challenged the team in a variety of ways,” Griffiths told us afterward. “It was really beneficial to see their problem-solving capabilities. Different leaders emerged from what we would have expected off the field, which was great to see.”

That’s a refrain we hear a lot – new and surprising leaders emerge during our team development activities. We have heard it from coaches and corporate leaders. We work with every team that comes to us, whether they are trying to win a championship or trying to build a business, in ways that encourage all employees and members to demonstrate the best of their abilities in a variety of ways that aren’t always obvious in the work-a-day world.

Griffiths’ goals when he brought his team to Northstar were to improve communications and increase trust among teammates. When that happens, a team gels. And when a team gels, games are won.

This year Griffiths’ team won the Patriot League championship and earned a first-ever at-large invitation to the NCAA championship playoffs. So what’s the difference between the field hockey players and the pro football team? Maybe it’s not how much they practice, maybe it’s how they practice.

“The incremental value of going out on the field one more time versus what you get here – there is nothing like it,” Griffiths said of the time spent in real team development. “Get out of your regular environment and change up the schedule.”