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It goes without saying that for any team to be successful, teamwork is key. While most teams will have one or two players that separate themselves from the others in talent, those players cannot win alone. There must be quality play and unity amongst the team members if they’re to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, only 5-10% of coaches in youth sports actually spend any practice time intentionally developing team chemistry. Here are five ways we suggest creating teamwork among your players.
Spend the occasional practice playing games other than your sport. If you coach a basketball team, spend a practice playing soccer. If you coach a volleyball team, spend a practice playing flag football. Working outside your sport occasionally not only helps to train in a few other athletic areas, but it also breaks up the monotony of going through the same practice routines every week.
A fun example is to play a game called Wrong Way Wiffleball. You play it just like regular Wiffleball, except everyone must bat with their opposite hand and all the bases are backwards. 3rd is 1st and 1st is 3rd. If you’re right handed, you bat from the left side of the plate! Not only is this fun, but it forces players to release their fear of messing up. You’re expected to mess up in Wrong Way Wiffleball! Imagine the look on your players’ faces when they show up to practice and you tell them they’ll be playing something different that night. They’ll certainly love it!
2) Have the players interview each other. Split your team into pairs, putting together players that don’t know each other well already. Give them a list of questions to ask each other. This allows players to get to know their teammates beyond just the basketball court in an intentional way. Chances are this is something most players wouldn’t do on their own. It gives an opportunity for players who aren’t friends off the court to become just that as they work together on the court.
Breakthrough Basketball developed some great questions that you can use for this. Add ones you think would create some good conversation among your players.
3) Watch a professional sports game together. This is a great opportunity to teach some sport skills along with have a good time getting to know your team and seeing them get to know each other. Order some pizzas, turn on a TV, and watch the game with your players pointing out things that your team can learn from the game.
4) Teach a kid’s clinic. It’s a great chance for your players to work together and also influence young kids who want to learn how to play your sport. This can also instill confidence in your players as it shows you trust them to impart their wisdom on younger players.
5) Support another club team. If you’re at a tournament with other teams from your club or league, make it a point to watch and cheer them on in their games if your schedule allows. Don’t limit it to just your sport either. If there are basketball teams playing in a tournament but you coach volleyball, take a Saturday with your team and go support other local teams.
The great Phil Jackson once said success and winning championships “requires the individuals involved to surrender their self-interest for the greater good so that the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.” When you intentionally lead your team in learning how to work together, your chances for success increase.
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