These kids are adorable. No idea who they are but found this pic on Pinterest
Have you ever seen those get along shirts parents put on their kids who keep fighting? It’s big enough to fit two people and they have no choice but to figure out how to get along because they can’t escape each other. While I personally never tried it on my kids, the concept is intriguing and they are probably glad they are too old for me to try it now!
It’s one approach to creating a bond but it’s not my preference. Bonds need to be formed organically, and forcing it isn’t necessary to making sure it happens.
Bonds are built on finding commonalities and appreciating differences. They are built through open communication, sharing goals and visions, overcoming adversity, and rejoicing in triumphs. Often close quarters are involved, but the bonds that are built through shared experiences are stronger than the forced ones many coaches use for team building.
Appreciation from a player that was written on a wall left available for encouragement or thanks, means a lot more than a required note the team is forced to write each other in an activity.
Forcing players to get along, constantly putting them together without any direction may create surface peace so they can function, but it neglects the deeper connections that could have been formed through a team heart to heart talk, sharing, or activity that allows for spontaneous and willing praise.
When you’re planning activities and opportunities for team bonding, just like coaching – avoid over scripting. Provide an opportunity that allows for real emotions, real gratitude, real connections. Hero, highlight, hardship allows players to get to know each other on a deeper level. Athletes each getting a day all about facts on them helps players learn more than what they see on the field. Outside of sport activities with small groups, scavenger hunts… You can get really creative and stay away from the forced bonding trap so many coaches fall into with the best of intentions.
Beyond the player to player connections, don’t forget to connect with your athletes as their coach. You can leave nice notes, treats, or even make a quick text or phone call to check in. Join in the games, share your own stories. Schedule two days or more a week where you will reach out to a player or for younger players, the athlete and the parents, and recognize their efforts, character traits, and improvements.
Avoid the get-along shirt tactic and go for activities that allow them to learn about each other without that forced bonding feel.