I have watched with increasing interest the rivalry and competition that exists within the Mercedes formula one team at the moment. This led me to consider is rivalry within a sports team a good or bad thing? I would probably suggest that it will vary depending on the type of sport and the type of rivalry. The Mercedes team at the moment it is quite a strange set up in terms of a ‘team’. There are, in essence, two individuals competing for the drivers championship who just so happen to compete for the same manufacturer. The problem in this scenario though is the teams goal (winning the constructors championship) is not completely aligned with the goals of the individual drivers (winning the drivers championship). Indeed, as highlighted by Nico Rosberg in the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa, the two goals can be at odds. While the teams’ goal can be achieved by the drivers finishing first and second Nico’s goal of winning the world championship can also be achieved by not allowing Lewis Hamilton to finish ahead of him (fairly or otherwise). So while the rivalry can push the individuals on to higher levels of performance in this case it appears to be destructive. There is also a line that it appears the ‘team-mates’ in this case have crossed.
Could this destructive rivalry though manifest itself in other more traditional team sports? Well the answer is yes, if the goals of the individual(s) do not align with those of the team there is the potential for problems. You might ask though how this could occur? Well take cricket for example, a sport that is both team and individually focused at the same time. Individual bowlers are vying for the opportunity to bowl at any given time. Also, players are looking to boost their personal stats to gain national team selection while also playing for the team. Indeed, I have in my time as an applied consultant come across cricketers who have not too bothered if the team lose if they have good stats from the game.
You might as well think “yes but surely this could not happen in a team like football”? But again it is possible, players who have their own agenda can disrupt the working of the team. Interestingly in football there is increasing use of player stats, this in turn could, over time, develop a more selfish focus as the objective comparison of contribution compared to a team mate would be possible.
So while motor racing is not a team sport in the purest sense, the current increasingly acrimonious battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Roseberg has the potential to manifest itself in any team sport where the goals of the team and the relevant individuals do not align.