Team Chemistry Key to Fever Success
Rookie Jené Morris realized the strength of the team bond before she even practiced with her new teammates.
It was the day of the WNBA Draft and after being selected, nearly every Fever player called or e-mailed Morris to welcome her to the team.
“That let me know how strong the team bond was,” she said. “I talked to a lot of the other players drafted and their teammates didn’t do that. I knew right away that this was going to be a great experience and how close everybody was, and that’s why they made it so far last year.”
With the Fever returning nine out of 11 players from last year’s Eastern Conference champions and WNBA Finals team, the chemistry among the group has improved.
“It’s even stronger than last season since we kept almost the exact same team, so that always helps,” forward Jessica Moore said. Once you go through the kind of practices that we go through, everything is very tough, and it brings the team together.”
Head coach Lin Dunn said that playing together is very important for the success of the team.
“One of the things we have tried to establish as a core value is play hard, play smart, play together,” Dunn said. “If you focus on those three things, when you deal with adversity, you continue to play hard and play smart and you pull together.”
In addition to spending a lot of time together in practices and games, the bond is extended off the court as well.
Normally, once a week the players will get together at someone’s house for dinner or to watch a movie. Tammy Sutton-Brown is the consensus best chef and has made Jamaican and Mexican food for her teammates.
Several members of the group went to see the “Sex in the City” movie earlier this summer and have plans to see “Toy Story 3.”
Second-year player Shay Murphy said she enjoys spending time with her teammates off the court and thinks it translates into success on the court.
“It’s cool to have teammates that you can talk to and hang out with,” Murphy said. “They are not just co-workers, they are teammates. You can spend a few hours with each other on a day off. I think last year and this year, our team chemistry has definitely won a lot of ball games and it’s huge for the Fever team.”
Spending time off the court with teammates has had a positive impact on Jessica Davenport.
“I play my best when I am comfortable,” she said. “I am comfortable with all the girls on this team and everybody on the staff. It gives me a certain comfort level knowing that whatever you go through they have your back and will pick you up.”
Davenport is so comfortable with her teammates that she has even played pranks on some of them, including a time they put a smoke bomb at a teammate’s house, rang the door bell, and fled from the scene.
In the off-season they are playing in different countries, but still find time to catch up with each other through facebook or skype. When they return to the Hoosier state for the WNBA season, most are without their families and are often traveling, so it is hard to meet people.
“A lot of us are not from here,” Sutton-Brown said. “My family is in Toronto, Jessica Moore is from Alaska, you have people from all over. This is, when we are here, this is our little family.”
During games it is easy to see that players care more about the success of the team than the individual. After a Tamika Catchings steal or a Katie Douglas 3-pointer, the bench will get up and scream out of joy and excitement for their teammates.
“Everyone is going to be involved whether you are playing or not,” Morris said. “It’s about the team dynamic and doing what you can to help the team win. The fact that everyone is so close and so supportive of each other is the reason why the team went as far as it did last year.”
Team chemistry played a big part in last year’s success, and Catchings said she expects it to be a big factor this season.
“To be a championship team you have to have that relationship and chemistry both on and off the court,” she said. “That is something we pride ourselves on here in Indiana, being able to always have that locker room chemistry, on the court and off the court, being able to call whoever, whenever and hang out. I think that definitely is going to be a big part of our success.”