Prior success as a team predicts the odds of future wins in four major sports leagues and a multiplayer online game, suggests a paper published online this week in Nature Human Behaviour.
Researchers have long recognized that success in team activities requires a combination of talented individuals and good team dynamics, but their relative importance is debated.
Satyam Mukherjee and colleagues studied data on teams from the English Premier League (football), Indian Premier League (cricket), Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, as well as a multiplayer online battle arena game. They calculated both the average player skill level for each team - based on statistics such as the number of goals or points scored per game, assists, or earned run average - and the extent of the team’s prior success based on the number of games won and lost over the preceding years.
The authors find that although team skill is the more important predictor of winning, prior shared success was also a modest predictor. This suggests that when competing teams are matched in their skill level, prior experience of playing and winning together may be the factor that makes the difference towards victory.
The authors acknowledge that this current study assessed only the occurrence of past success, not the quality of team relations - such as communication, trust, shared experience, and the psychological boost that comes from victories. More research is needed to determine which qualities drive the association between shared successes and future wins.