Building Team Chemistry, Leadership and Culture With In-Season Team Building Activities

What team building activities do you do in-season with your players? Most of us have heard about teams going to exclusive resorts or being involved with some sort of expensive team building program or event. The cost alone will exclude most teams from participating in these types of events.

In the past I have used inexpensive ways to bring the team together and work on building the chemistry, leadership and culture of the team. Here are a few:

  • Habitat for Humanity work day
  • Museum visits
  • NASCAR  shop visits
  • Cookouts
  • Snowmobile parties
  • Sightseeing tours

I asked some of my coaching friends to tell us what they do.

Danny Brooks, assistant coach with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league, had an extensive list of events that included rappelling 80 feet down the side of a building, working with ropes 60 feet up in trees, sport psychology sessions, and paintball. The team also uses ‘work ethic’ and ‘self esteem’ charts.

In our team building we jumped off the building, we climbed up the trees etc. Players want to know you are going to war with them. We are leaders who lead the charge not stand back and yell and give orders. If we ask our players to jump we jump first. Team building is critical in the success of the team both in short term events i.e. world juniors and in an 80 game season.

At the high school level coach Frank Hubley keeps it simple. His players already have full schedules with school and other activities.

With team building we use our off-ice sessions. We break the team into groups of 5-6 and work out in the weight room and run the stairs. We also have team meetings with the players.

At Ohio State assistant coach Jason Lammers talks about a neat team building exercise that the team just did.

We have really tried to focus on our team. Today we did a great one! We made a spider web and each of the guys had to fit through one of the holes in the web. It was great!

We are really trying to educate our leaders with articles, talks, and actions to show them how to be more effective.

Lots of coaches are using creative team building events to improve their teams and players. Most would agree that this can lead to greater individual and team success. It can be a lot of fun too!

After the Final Horn-Making the Post Season Positive

The final horn has sounded to end the season. Now what to do? As the head coach you need a plan of attack to deal with the post season. Your emotions might range from utter joy to relief to utter despair, based on the success of your season. If your final game was for the championship, you were likely thrilled about your season, especially if you won. If the final game was the last of a long string of painful results, then the season likely couldn’t end soon enough. Every post season should have two elements: 1. An honest and thorough evaluation system that will allow all involved have a positive experience and a chance to grow within their role with the team. 2. Information gathering system to put things in place for the future that will lead to better results for all. Here are some points to make this happen.

  • End of Season Physicals. Depending on the level, exit physicals may not be required. They are still a good idea. At the professional level they are typically mandatory and players and teams keep detailed records of all medical issues. Deal with all health issues now and institute a follow up system to ensure proper treatments have been completed.
  • End of Season Player Meetings. The coaching staff meets individually with each player. Using notes from the same type of meeting that was held before the season began, and additional notes compiled throughout the season, the staff will review the player’s performance. This should be a meeting that covers all the important issues concerning the player. Allow a free flow of communication between all. Player feedback is an important component of the meeting. Assess the past season in an honest and constructive way. Set goals for the off season in areas like conditioning and nutrition. Look ahead to the next season and start the process of goal setting by giving each player an idea of the expectations the staff has for them. Be sure to get all necessary contact information from each player (phone numbers, email address, mailing address).
  • Staff Evaluations. Follow the same format as the player meetings. This is a great time to get feedback that can help grow the team, your staff, and you personally.
  • Personal Evaluation. Time for self-evaluation. This can be a tough one and it needs to be honest. If at all possible, find a mentor who would give an honest assessment of your performance. This is a great time for a second opinion. Don’t allow the team record to be your main reference point in evaluating your personal performance. Also try to build in personal evaluation questions when meeting with players and staff.
  • Inventory. Before everything is packed away for the summer, take an inventory of equipment, pucks and pylons, supplies, etc. Make a hard copy that you can share with the appropriate people. Then everyone will know what needs to be replenished before the start of next season. Be sure to identify any additional needs for next year.
  • Thank You Notes. This is never a bad thing. The notes might be in the form of a highlight DVD for the players. They could be an autographed stick to a sponsor or a key supporter. It can be a simple as looking into someone’s eyes as you deliver a firm ‘thank you’ handshake.
  • Become a Fan Again. If teams at your level are still playing, try to watch some games. Check out other levels of competition as well and see if there are things others are doing that you could implement and benefit from. This is a great chance to pick up ideas– good and bad. Focus on learning from successful people and successful programs.
  • Take a Mental Health Break. Your players have likely seen and heard enough from you for awhile. Once you use the suggestions in this post, give yourself a break from your hockey routine. Do something different like go fishing or hiking. Leave all the issues related to the past season behind for awhile. You have done your evaluations and have taken the lessons learned from last season with you.

Start to re-energize yourself.