October 24th, 2020

Training Matters: Building a team no simple task

By Sean Rooney on September 21, 2018.

Every year is a new beginning when you are coaching. Whether you finished first and had a great ending to the season or were disappointed by how the past season unfolded, the start of a new year brings excitement and a hope of good times ahead.

Every coach, player, parent and administrator has thoughts on how this new year is going to be exciting and rewarding for all involved. If you are someone who is involved in coaching or leading a group of people, you should ask yourself a few questions: How is this year going to be different? How can I help this team put its teammates first? What makes the team and each individual tick?

When composing the group, coaches try to choose their team based on complementary traits. For example in basketball, you need a few players who can score, you need those who are hungry to rebound, fierce in their defensive play, contribute as great teammates, excel at ball handling. There needs to be a balance and the team members need to complement each other — too much of a good thing is not beneficial on a team, as it can leave your weaknesses exposed.

After the team has been assembled (the phase in team development referred to as forming), each team member is trying to determine where they fit in, what their role they will fulfill. This beginning stage is great. Everyone is excited to be on a new team, contributing to the journey.

As the team continues to develop, team members begin to realize that being on a team is hard work. They may not play as much as they want, they do not understand what the coaches are telling them, they may believe that they deserve more recognition than another person. This is the struggle, where each individual including players, coaches and support staff is working out how they can contribute utilizing their talents and recognizing their weaknesses. This is known as storming.

Communication is key in supporting team dynamics and supporting the team building process. Helping players understand where they fit in this new team is paramount; it helps them accept and embrace their role as well as supports the development of the team to the performing stage.

Performing is the place within which a coach wants their team to perform at its best. Role acceptance, empathy and personal self-sacrifice, collective energy contribution and dedication as well as a commitment to a common goal are all attributes that effective teams possess.

Teams can move through any stage at any point. It is very important for the leadership of the team to create an open and trusting environment, facilitating communication and ensuring that all members are on the same page and direction.

As a coach or leader do you place a high importance on team-building activities? Do you structure and plan these activities on an on-going and consistent basis? Do you place importance on getting to know your team members outside of your specific circumstance?

If you want to retain team members, if you want their experience to be positive and rewarding and if you want them to tell others that your program is a great place to be, then your answers to these questions should be yes!

Some of the activities we have used include paintball, bowling (mom/daughter night), camp-out, hikes, team dinners, mini-golf and others with the goal of trying to get the team to know their teammates and coaches on a higher level. The on-going focus on team and the activities that go along with that are important to create an atmosphere of belonging and trust within the group.

Team-building and chemistry is very important to team success. These activities take planning and care to be genuine and have the players believe you care about them.

Clayton Nielsen holds a masters degree in applied science — sport coaching, instructs in the kinesiology department and is the head coach of the Medicine Hat College women’s basketball team. Feedback for this column can be sent to sports@medicinehatnews.com.

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