As we talked about in the previous post, team building is an action. Team building is something the team and the coach need to work together on in order to build the chemistry required for a successful season. From my experience, here are a list of 4 ideas to build the cohesion of the team.
1. Senior/Captain led activities
Every year I reach out to my more senior members of the team and ask them to organize events. This is something that starts in the fall and continues just before the season begins. This is the time of year a coach can’t require activity so I ask the players to lead and run with it. The players should look for activities that all players can be involved in and something that isn’t too costly. I like options like bowling here. You can get a good size group together for a relatively low price. The players can also organize themselves to go support the fall/winter school teams or gather around for big football game on TV. Keep to checking in with your offseason leaders here to ensure its available to all players, and that the players are keeping it regular. This builds the foundation before the season.
2. Team Retreat
A simple team trip where you get away from the sport and encourage communication and problem solving can do wonders. This doesn’t need to be an elaborate event with an overnight stay. One of my favorite things I ever did with the team was a trip to the local state park. Before getting to the park I researched a number of classic team building activities where the team would have to work together and solve problems. We followed this 30 min team activity with a 0.75 mile hike to a picturesque overlook. During our climb we stopped to talk about the games in chronological order. We solved simple challenges along the way that again required a group effort. At the top we discussed the what the pinnacle of our season looked like and what our goals were. This was a simple but effective trip as I witnessed a number of conversations and and friendships develop that hadn’t been there before.
3. Play other sports
The coaches and the players know pretty quickly after the season begins who the “stars” and who the backups are going to be. While this stratification is common place in all sports, its important, no paramount, that all players know everyone is valuable to the team. The starters job on gameday is to win the game. Players that don’t get as much playing time need to give it all they can in practice to prepare the starters for the game. Players on the bench can have other jobs on gameday to assist the players on the field. I want all these players to realize they are extremely important to the teams success, and I truly believe that. One of my favorite ways to reward those players is with basketball or ultimate frisbee. When time permits in your schedule, its fun to play other sports with your team because it allows some players with different skillsets to shine. Some starters take a back seat to players traditionally on the bench, and a lesson in empathy is subtly learned.
4. Team Dinners
The oldest trick in the book, right? Parents are always looking for ways to help out and this is a great way to assist the team. Team dinners are always a great way to get players together without the stratification of skills and let them decompress while enjoying a meal together. One of the tough parts at team dinners is because of the quantity you may have on your team, there is a natural break off to different rooms and it doesn’t foster communication between everyone. Small downside to an otherwise good activity.
Whatever you do, remember to enforce it. Players may not be as motivated to do this on their own, so as a coach it is your responsibility to make sure your team is gelling. If they do not become one unit, your team will not be successful. My best seasons were with my best “teams”.