Angelique Chengelis posted a very interesting ARTICLE this morning from the Big Ten Media function in Chicago. The article is interesting in its own right, but the subtext caught my attention even more.
The article focuses on how team leaders have used off-field functions to build team chemistry. That sounds like a great idea, and it also underscores how players like Gardner who have occasionally been derided as insufficient leaders are leading in their own way.
The really interesting thing to me, though, was the implications in the article as to team chemistry last year. Frank Clark's quote struck me:
Strength coach Aaron Wellman has been integral in helping the players bond, Clark said, making a point to encourage offensive and defensive players, and black and white players, hang out together at team dinners or as they arrive or leave strength training sessions.
“Coach Wellman says, ‘Let’s make Oreos, baby,’” Clark said, laughing. “You’re sitting there and you walk out, it’s not about a black or white thing at the end of the day.”
Chengelis notes that this is not an indictment of last year's team, but more of a positive step forward. That may be her being a bit gracious, though, since you would hope coaches and assistants (and upperclassmen) would notice any offense/defense or black/white cliquing behavior and work to address it as a matter of course. As Clark put it "(w)hen you go 7-6 -- when you lose that many games two years in a row, you start to sit down and think like something’s gotta change around here”. Indeed.
I applaud Clark for being forthright on this, and Wellman for addressing this, but I was a bit disappointed that cliques (and cliques based on race) were an issue last year. For all of that, it sounds as though Wellman is doing a great job of going beyond simply conditioning and strength training, and working on team building. He may lack Barwis's growl (most of us do), but he seems to be doing a fine job for the team and strikes me as an undervalued asset of the program.