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!

Be Sure You Select The Best Captain Possible For Your Team

Most teams understand the importance of leadership. Getting the right captain and alternates is a major component of  team leadership and can be a key to a team’s success. The captain will likely become the ‘face’ of the team to fans and media. He will be the one the coaching staff relies on to ‘run’ the dressing room and players look to for leadership.

Teams use different strategies to pick a captain. The process can take many forms:

  • Players vote for the team captains
  • Coach picks the best player as captain
  • Th most senior players fill the captain roles
  • Rotate the ‘C’ through the lineup over the course of the season
  • By committee, where everyone gets a say
  • Management selects the captains

Danny Brooks, assistant coach with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL had this to say about what is done with his major junior team.

The three most important aspects to our organization are: 1. work ethic, 2. attitude, 3. discipline.  The captain and assistant captains must have those attributes first and foremost. The captain represents what we want everyday. Our captain is not our best player, but he brings those attributes everyday. He pushes the best players to adopt those attributes. Leadership is something that is groomed. We do something very unique here in Drummondville; we change our assistant captains every month. We reward players for hard work, discipline and attitude. Each player is also a leader in his own right. A player can be a leader in a particular aspect of the game. For example, if you are a banger, you might be the leader of the bangers. In each case all players have ownership in the team. Players are held accountable for the aspect they lead the team in.

Frank Hubley, coaching at the high school level in Nova Scotia, tells us how he selects his captains

I choose the captains. At times I have asked a number of players who they think would make good captains. I ask them ‘why’ and if there are any reasons why any of their choices may not be a good captain for the team.

I have done it where I ask no questions and I pick the captains myself. I have never allowed the players pick the captains. For me it is too much of a popularity contest. Also, I may speak about leadership to the team then ask for 3-4 names of people they think would be good captains. I  have not made up my mind on that way yet.

Jason Lammers, assistant coach with Ohio State, gives us another perspective on the process.

This year we had the guys fill out a questionnaire asking for more information about teammates. For example we asked; who would you want in your foxhole, who is the most committed on and off the ice, and who has the best work ethic. We added up the scores and then decided if we agreed with what the guys thought. It seemed to work really well!

There is no sure-fire way to ensure your team selects the best person as captain. That shouldn’t stop you from doing everything possible to try to make this happen anyway. The right leader could make or break your season.

If you have any suggestion on how to pick captains, please comment on this post,