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by Tim Covey
You devote a lot of time outside of your “day job” to spend time teaching, encouraging, and developing your players. Because time is limited, softball team building activities often get pushed onto the “back-burner.”
And that’s completely understandable. Even if you only put in the minimal amount of time, the reality is that you are spending valuable time coaching that you could be spending with your family or doing other things.
As coaches it can be a challenge to maintain a healthy balance between family, work, and coaching. It’s good to take coaching seriously. And there is nothing wrong with being intense about building a program.
And we need to be careful that we do not allow coaching to get in the way of being a spouse, parent, etc. (NOTE: If you are married, coaching DOES take an understanding and supportive spouse!)
But we know team building is important…so how in the heck do you fit in time to ALSO do team building activities on top of everything else?
Some of us are better at it than others. Personally, I often feel like I should do more than I do. One thing that has been helpful for us is to develop some traditions that we fit into the regular routine of our season each year.
As a travel ball coach, you might only be practicing 2 days per week. You want to make sure you get in your “reps.” That is understandable. So simply take 10-15 minutes before or after practice, take time at a weekend tournament, or just add an extra night during the season on occasion.
You don’t need to kill yourself to fit it in. Here are three easy ways to incorporate team building into your program each season.
This is a simple way for your players to have some fun around each other at the start of our season. Each year, typically in the second week of the season, we take a night and go to the bowling alley.
This is a fun, easy, low-key, inexpensive way for the girls to simply be around each other as a team outside of the practice/game environment.
One aspect of doing this event effectively is to divide the teams up into specific groups so that the players are not segregating into groups with their best friends. The biggest value of this annual event in our program is that it’s a low-key way for our players to interact with each other and get to know one another off the field.
One additional thing we added to this event is having the girls fill out a “get to know you” survey. Some of the questions were things like “your favorite food,” “your dream job,” etc.
Other questions were based on their preferences of how people treat them when things are going poorly on the field. For example, “leave me alone,” “give me lots of encouragement,” “be tough on me.” This is a great way for players and coaches to learn a little bit about the “inner-workings” of their teammates.
I highly recommend doing some type of service work each year. There are many organizations out there that love the help. Personally, I love to find something where we are working with younger kids.
The girls love it and it is typically appreciated by the organization. Our teams have often worked for different ministries in various areas of Orlando. We typically teach softball to lower school students and then the help them with their homework.
These are great reminders for our players that life is not all about them, and it encourages a service mindset.
It also can help give the workers within the organization a break from their daily routine. Oh yeah, and it has the added benefit of providing a natural way to build team chemistry.
One thing I would encourage is to always ask the organization how you can best serve them (as opposed to telling them what you will do “for” them). They are the experts in their organizations and will know how your team can best be of assistance.
A natural part of coaching is talking to the team. Sometimes we spend a few minutes prior to games, while other times we carve some time before practice.
Sometimes one of the coaches will spend a few minutes reading and discussing something of importance. Other times, we will allow a player to take the lead.
There are many great books on aspects of character building that a team could go through during the season. It can be as simple as 10 minutes at a time.
If you happen to work in a faith-based organization, then doing something like team devotions is a natural part of your coaching “process” and feeds into this. If you do not, then you could use something like ProActive Coaching which focuses on character building.
This time could simply be a time to remind the players of things that are important, such as playing for each other, showing respect, persevering through adversity, loving each other well, etc. Or you could do an actual team building activity.
There are many other great ways to build team chemistry. These are just three simple things that a team can do, and hopefully gives you some “food for thought.”
While big events such as ropes courses are good, we do not need to always do major things to bring our girls together.
If we incorporate small softball team building activities throughout the season we can begin to create a culture of unity and togetherness!
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by Mark Ritchhart
by Tim Covey