5 Signs of Low Team Morale and How to Counteract It

By Hunter Swanson | Monday, October 8, 2018

5 Signs of Low Team Morale and How to Counteract It

Low team morale – or the team’s mood – is like a cold working its way through school.  You don’t know where it started or how long ago.  People try and work through the sick symptoms thinking that if they ignore them long enough, they’ll just go away.  By the time the real cold rears its ugly head, it’s too late and everyone is home with chicken noodle soup trying in vain to stop something a long time in the making.

The same happens to any team (metaphorically speaking) when low team morale sets in.  There’s an inciting incident where the sickness sets in – a bad practice, some disagreement between teammates, a tough loss – and the illness festers.  Instead of being positive about practice, about the team, or even about the sport, there are problems.  These problems can destroy a season if they aren’t taken care of quickly and efficiently.  Here are 5 signs of low team morale to watch out for, and some tips to counteract it.

  1. Attitude Check

Teammates that are struggling with their attitude can be fairly obvious.  Negative talk to themselves or those around them, showing up late or not even bothering to come to practice, and being more self-centered are just some of the red flags to watch out for.  What makes this particularly difficult is that it doesn’t even have to be a result of on the field events.  Personal problems away from the team have just as much effect on a player’s attitude.  Checking in with the players as individuals and the team as a whole on a consistent basis will go a long way in understanding and reading the morale of the team and catch problems before the metastasize.

  1. Word of Mouth

The dreaded grapevine – where rumors bloom and destroy teams from the inside out.  This all stems from a lack of communication.  When information that the team wants/needs to know is absent, gossip replaces it.  Gossip leads to misinformation and misinformation leads to conflict.  The key to avoiding this is simple – talk.  Even if you don’t have all the answers, honesty is truly the best policy here.  At least the team will recognize what’s going on and not freak out and start spreading rumors.  It’s never too late to start good communication and turn around that low team morale.

  1. Lack of Motivation

This one can be a little harder to spot.  Athletes will still go through the motions, they will show up and practice or play, but the drive just isn’t there.  They aren’t working for anything, they are participating more out of an obligation rather than a true desire to see the team win.  Getting someone motivated again can be difficult as well.  It’s all about finding that original excitement for the sport or the team.  Helping the athletes take ownership of their position, have initiative to improve, be a leader at certain points, and have freedom to be creative.  Low team morale can quickly plummet to boredom, so remember the game is supposed to be fun!

  1. Little to No Recognition

No one likes busting their rear to help and then have it all be ignored.  Even something as simple as praise can go a long way.  The key is to be personal.  A generic pat on the back or traditional “Good job” is nice, but it seems disingenuous.  Give a teammate the recognition they deserve for a job well done and don’t be afraid to make it public.  Working for praise can be just as contagious as apathy.

  1. Under Performing

The worst thing to see as a coach or a teammate is when the squad is under performing because of low team morale.  You know there’s talent on the team, they have the potential to be great, but they just aren’t living up to their expectations.  Losing easy games, forgetting simple plays, an increase in turnovers or uncontested points are all strong indicators.  Finding out why a team is under performing because of low team morale can be difficult.  Communicate and find out how you can help as a coach, a parent, or a teammate.  If you are a leader on the team, step up and be that person to create a positive team environment.