This article is provided by Coaches Network
Why do you need to increase cohesion on your team? As sports psychologist Stefanie A. Latham, Ph.D.,wrote in a Power Point presentation, entitled “The Team Building /Cohesion Relationship: What Every Coach Should Know to Get the Most out of Their Team,” winning teams do not succeed on talent alone. She writes: “Talent without teamwork equals trouble.”
Latham coached a premiere United States Volleyball Association club for five years with teams advancing to nationals every year. She left the world of coaching in 2003 to finish her Ph.D. in Sport Psychology, and served as the Chairwoman and Professor of Sport Science at Oklahoma City University for five years. She feels that team building maximizes potential because the team is focused on common goals. Not only does the practice of team building minimize conflicts, it will also make the season more enjoyable for the players.
Latham finds that coaches only 5-10% of practice time on team-building exercises. It’s not hard to implement the process of team building—it can consist of games or activities, or drills that will sharpen focus. These team building practices will help the team set goals, clear communication, improve positive imagery, build motivation and confidence.
The author list the following team building strategies:
• Hold regular team dinners
• Go to the movies together
• Have your team play a different sport
• Plan a preseason retreat or training camp
• Organize a team scavenger hunt
• Ask your player to switch positions for the day
• Create a contest to select a slogan or team theme
Latham details two unique team-building games:
1. Balloon Train: Have twice as many balloons as you have players. Set up a slalom course using 4-6 cones and obstacles—zigzag the cones 5-10 yards away from each other. The players line up in straight single file line with inflated balloon between their navel and the back of a teammate who is in front of them. The players walk through the course together as a team without busting balloons. Afterwards, have each player shares one thought on the activity. “The activity requires working closely together to achieve a common goal,” Latham says.
2. Strung Together: Have a large ball of string. Team members sit down in a big circle. Hand the ball of string to one player and have him or her hold one end of it. The player tosses the ball of string to another teammate while holding the end of the string. The player then talks about all the things the team needs from that teammate who received the ball of string. Then the coach encourages others to add to the statement. That player holds part of the strong and tosses the ball to another player, and the process starts over. Once everyone is holding a piece of the string (including the coach), the players discuss their perceptions of what the activity represents—i.e., everyone is dependant on each other in some way because of the connections of the string. Ask your players to talk about what it means to be connected, how it relates to responsibility, accountability, and trust. Have them discuss what happens if connections are cut or a person lets go of the string
Latham strongly recommends that the coach works with team members to determine the proper team building activity—a strategy that is effective with one team may not work with another.
She says the role of the coach is to facilitate discussion and keep the activity on track. “Focus on solutions, not the problems,” Latham writes.