It’s amazing to me how many coaches overlook the importance of team bonding. Im not necessarily talking about team sleepovers, or team dinners. I mean coach facilitated team bonding. Activities and discussions to unite players on a deeper level than a common interest in a certain sport. On both of my collegiate teams, I was merely thrown into the mix of players and left to fend for myself in getting to know my teammates. Yet, in my collegiate classes there was always a teacher facilitated “get to know each other” activity done in the first week of school. This perplexed me. In the classroom I rarely rely on my fellow classmates to assist me in receiving a good grade. However, on the softball field, achieving success without relying on my teammates is impossible. So why were my teachers putting more emphasis on cohesion than my coaches were?
In my undergraduate studies, most of my teachers possessed a doctorate that fell into the field of kinesiology. Since my teachers were highly trained in the kinesiology field, they knew that cohesion within a group breeds success for the group. They knew that if we were comfortable with our classmates we would be more likely to speak up in class, ask for help, collaborate, and discuss, which in turn benefits the learning process by getting us involved. If team bonding activities were so beneficial in improving communication in the classroom, think of how successful it could make a sports team.
Which lead me to my future philosophy as coach. I will always start off a season with team bonding activities. Not only will I begin the season with team bonding activities, but I will implement them through out the year as well. No one knows better than a former athlete that team dynamics ebb and flow throughout the season. Situations happen, teammates get in fights, suzy steals sallys boyfriend and so on. So extending team bonding activities throughout the season is a very important aspect to me.
I’ve actually found and witnessed a few programs that start their seasons this way. (Sierra City College) In fact, when I coached for Santa Rosa Junior college in their 2012 season, we started our spring season this way. We took our girls up to Tahoe for a retreat. On the retreat we played games, and facilitated discussions so our players could truly get to know each other, we as coaches could get to know them, and they us. I’ve never been so moved. I went from barely knowing my players to really understanding who they were as players and where they come from. Their personalities and behaviors were finally linked to reason, rather than mere physical observations. One of the more popular activities we did, was a scavenger hunt. When I was a freshman at SRJC in 2008 our coaches put together a scavenger hunt for us as an end of the year “party”. We were sent out in groups of 3-4 all over Santa Rosa with a list of tasks to complete and a video camera. We had two hours to record as many tasks as we could. At the end of two hours we reconvened at our coaches house and viewed all the tapes to determine a winner. The footage was priceless. We were all hysterically laughing at eachothers’ success and failures. Some of the tasks included: leap frogging across a cross walk, belly flopping into a pool, eating an entire lemon, rubbing a bald persons head, eating a raw egg and so on. Inspired by my freshman experience I recreated it for my players. Again it was a complete success, they loved it, and really got to know each other as they worked through the tasks.
It is so important for players to connect with one another. It facilitates communication and trust on the field and off. Not only is it beneficial, it’s fun! Can’t wait to implement my own team bonding plan someday!
Quote of the day:
“The main ingredient to a players stardom is the rest of the team” – John Wooden