TEAM BUILDING: GETTING PLAYERS TO PLAY AS A TEAM AND TO TRUST ONE ANOTHER

Coaches, have you ever attempted to calculate the amount of time the players on your team spend with one another in a season? If you ever did in fact keep track of such a thing, be it practices, league games, tournaments, team functions or even car pooling to the rink – not to mention all the dressing room time in preparing for practices and games, how many hours do you think it would add up to? Obviously quite a few!. In my over 20 years of coaching experience (including those with the Predators), I haven’t seen many teams that achieve success when they are not close knit or there are rifts or cliques that develop within the team.

As a coach you are more than just an instructor of skills and techniques. If you take your job seriously and want to do it to the best of your ability, you will invest the time to ensure that your team gets along and trusts each other. Here are some inexpensive and fun team building excercises that I have done with teams over the years that have helped players learn to work with and trust one another:

Ice Breaker – Getting to know you
This is particulary effective at the beginning of the season once your team is made. All you need for this one is 20 sheets of paper and 10 or so pens. What you do is divide everyone into pairs, give them each a sheet and a pen and spread each group of players into different areas of the room. On the sheet of paper you would have 4 or 5 questions such as the following: name, position, team played for, strength as a player, what you would like to see the TEAM accomplish this season, what other hobbies or outside interests do you have, family stuff (parents names, how many kids in family etc..). Give them a set amount of time – say 10 to 15 minutes and have each player pose these questions to his or her partner and fill out the sheet with their answers. Each player then gets up in front of the group and introduces their teammate and proceeds to tell the rest of the team all about them. Even if the kids have played together for a few years, they can always find out more about each other. What this exercise attempts to do is get players to be comfortable within the group setting and allow them to learn more about each others backgrounds, ideals, motivation and the like.      

The Minefield
Take 2 pieces of rope about 8 feet long and stretch them about 3 feet apart and parallel to each other to create a boundary. Then take your practice puck bucket and dump it in between the ropes – setting them up in any manner that you see fit. Then divide your squad into 2 equal teams. Each team must select one person to start and put a blindfold on him or her. The objective is for the team members to direct their player through the course without them stepping on a puck (or minefield if you will), using verbal commands only. Be sure to change the placing of the pucks each team so they can’t cheat! By doing this your players will learn how to trust and rely on each other. Without the help and direction of their teammates, the blindfolded player would not get very far through the minefield. A great communication and teamwork exercise.
 
Circle of trust
Divide the team into two or more equal groups. Use 10 cardboard sheets for each team and number them 1 to 10 with a dark colored sharpie. Place them at random in a circle type pattern, being careful not to put too many consecutive numbers beside one another. Let the group pick a player to go first. DO NOT let the player see the pattern in which the numbers are laid out. The group then directs their chosen player to step on the numbers in sequential order (1-10) with a simple foot tap on each one. Coaches use a stop watch to time it. Players continue to alternate, all the while trying to beat their teams previous time. Again, be sure to change the pattern of the sheets each time. This is a  great teamwork exercise.

 

Bucket of water
This one is my favorite! Divide the team into 2 or more equal groups – making sure you have at least five players in each. Have the players lie down on their backs and put their feet up in the air. A bucket of water is then placed on their feet and they hold it together as a team. Coaches can then give them commands such as telling one player to take one foot off, then another, then another. They can also have everyone take 1 foot off, or everyone except two of the players take their feet off. In this exercise, the players work as a team to strategize …… and not have a bucket of water fall on them!

 

Obviously there are many more of these that can be done – use your imagination coaches. Campouts are another great idea – perhaps with a treasure hunt involved. Bowling and team dinners are always fun too. Regardless of which team builders you decide to use, you will see how much closer and trusting of one another your players will become. Remember that if your players trust and like one another, not only does it increase your chances of success  on the ice, it creates much more harmony and a better environment off it.







 
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