I served in the USMC out of high school and I use so much of my military training in my coaching. One of the things that the military takes extremely important is TEAM BUILDING. We were constantly being drilled by our seargents about the following three things:
1. Preparation– The tightest bonds are formed between people who go thru adverse situations together.
3. Teamwork– they needed to rely on every person to do their jobs and do it to perfection.
Although the life and death situations that a soldier faces is not the same as playing a football game, these lessons are still true in sports. Coaches need to be ahead of the game to be successful.
As we are strengthening the relationships between our players, there are a couple of themes that we build upon: Love, Trust, and getting players to realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
STUDENT TREE PROGRAM
I go through this in great detail in another blog that you can read by clicking here. Basically we divide our team into smaller groups of 4-6 players and put a leader in charge of each group. These teams do everything together, from stretching to collecting grade checks to fundraising. Not only does it train our leaders but it also breaks down social cliques that form in the off-season.
Don’t discount the importance of team building in the weight room. We start every lift at the same time which sends the message that we start and finish TOGETHER.
I also only allow human spotters which sends the MESSAGE: “We have your back” and “We will never let you quit”. We also change our lifting groups whenever we are doing lifts that are non-max based (such as pushups, plyos, agilities). This breaks down cliques and forces new bonds to be formed. If you want to read more about what we do in the weight room is described in great detail by clicking here.
TOTAL TEAM THURSDAYS During the summer we do a very motivating outdoor workout every Thursday. We compete in our STUDENT TREE teams in events such as fireman carries, bleacher runs, and tire flips. There are winners and losers and our players learn to work as a team. This is all detailed in my S.S.X. Weight Training manual or by reading my blog article.
SPRING TEAM BUILDERS
Once a month we try to organize something as a team. This can be a swim party, paintball, dodgeball, Madden tourneys, or simply a game of flag football. It can even be a carwash. That’s right, the fundraiser that every coach hates is actually a great team builder. We put each team from the Student Tree in charge of a section of the car wash (prep, wash, rinse, dry). As the coaches sit back in lawn chairs and watch, you will see leadership skills develop in addition to players working towards a common goal.
We take our team on three overnight trips during the year. The first is in late May and only players with 85% weight room attendance are allowed to attend. Our second retreat is at the end of summer and combines a 7on7 tournament with a trip to the beach. The last retreat is a the end of August conditioning and is a 1-night camping trip about an hour from our school.
These retreats have fun activities mixed in with goal setting and team building. The most powerful team bonding experience of these retreats is spending time around a fire late at night. This is serious time to set goals, let things out that are troubling, and to call players on the carpet who have not been 100% committed. Coaches have to talk from the heart and share a personal story to model what you want the players to talk about.
We believe that families must break bread together so during the season we have team dinners every Thursday night, breakfast on Friday mornings, and team lunches after school on Friday. Our team dinners are like mini-awards banquets, with highlight video, guest speakers, and passing out of helmet stickers. Another powerful thing we do is to invite a different community club to prepare and serve the meals. This can be the local police dept, the school board, rotary club, or our faculty. Not only does it ease the burden on parents, but it also fosters positive community relationships.
On Friday morning we have breakfast burritos after our “game day lift”. Then our JVs eat together at lunch and varsity eats together right after school. The lunch is usually left overs from Thursday night, but we will go to a restaurant during playoffs.
SENIOR LEGACY CANDLE CEREMONY
Our last team dinner is catered and seniors can invite guests. Underclassmen serve, sending the message that they have to play for the seniors last few games. After dinner our entire program (all 3 teams) heads to the 50-yard line and every senior holds a candle. Coaches talk about each senior and then each senior enters the circle to share memories. Then they give their candle to an underclassman with the instructions to stay in the program so that their candle stays burning and can be passed down in next years ceremony. So the younger players feel a powerful obligation to live up to all of their legacies.
BOTTOM LINE: Players have to play for the man next to them and not for themselves. When EVERYONE on the team has that attitude, your team will be very hard to beat.
VERY IMPORTANT…. Film every activity and include on the highlight DVD. My DVDs are 50% game clips and 50% of the off field activities. These DVDs are given to every teacher, school board member, and program VIPs. It is a great marketing and recruiting tool.
In my books, I go into much greater detail about each team building activity, along with scripted speeches for you to use as a starting point for your team building activity.