Team Building for Coaches, Managers and Team Captains.
December 15, 2014
Team building is an important part of all sports teams, sports groups and training partnerships and can often be characterised as team enhancement or team improvement. We assume that when successful team building has taken place improvements in performance will occur. Historically team building has been accepted by businesa dn industry. Team building interventions often demonstrate greater effectiveness in changing attitudes that specific human process interventions (e.g. goal setting or group decision making). It is generally agreed throughout the literature that team building in sport settings (and business settings) can improve performance and develop cohesion also is very much agreed that the role of the coach or team manager is to build and support the cohesive team.
Yukelson (1997) suggested seven ways to approach team building and how coaches or managers can impact upon their teams functioning, these are as follows; (1) get to know each of the team members as individuals, (2) develop pride in the group membership and create a sense of team identity, (3) develop a comprehensive team goal, (4) provide goal evaluations regularly, (5) clarify role expectations, (6) set aside specific time for team meeting, (7) establish a team member council. Coaches have reported that these strategies are designed to do one of two things, firstly to bond the team as a social unit, and secondly to clarify task cohesion.
In a paper by Bloom et al (2010) coaches were interviewed to examine the team building elements of their role. 5 themes emerged from the interviews.
(1) Fundamental elements of team building - coaches felt that team building was bringing a group of people together, establishing mutual goals and unifying the individuals towards those goals.
(2) Team environment - the coaches emphasised the importance of creating the right environment for team building. This was often accomplished by the use of organisation and planning around the season, which would in turn provide consistency and stability for the athletes. Within in the theme coaches also noted that assistants and support staff were also influential in the team building process by reiterating goals and visions, but it was also noted that they could contradict the head coach and hurt the environment.
(3) Coaches role and characteristics - perhaps most importantly in my experience the coaches characteristics play an important role in team building. The understanding that it is their role to facilitate, moderate and supervise the team in order to keep it functioning in a desired direction. Often coaches realise that their leadership style is a strategy and can play a pivotal role in developing team cohesion, even though often their role would change regularly. It was also highly noted in this paper that getting a buy in from each of the athletes was important. This was done by working intiailly with the team captain and other veteran performers as these individuals had a powerful influence over the rest of the team. It was also noted that the coaches in this example felt it important that the team had a sense of ownership and responsibility beyond the coaches control.
(4) Team building activities - often the thorn in peoples sides in the workplace, these were seen as important and in Bloom et al’s paper more time was spent talking about this theme than any other. Activities such as initiations, pot luck dinners, barbecues and other purely social activities helped with creating team cohesion. Training camps and away days were often used where focus was solely on performance of the team. Finally the coaches noted that using organised training, tactical activities, sport specific game and having a sport psychology talk to the team were all beneficial elements to developing team identity.
(5) Lessons learned - coaches discussed when team building went wrong in this paper. Examples of unsuccessful team building included bad weather at training camps, athletes getting lost during runs in the woods and initiations going awry. However the common thread through all of the lessons learnt was that each of the team building activities were well-intentioned however they just happened to not work out. Finally many mention that adversity often brings people together, something which you cannot easily plan for.
There are many practical implications that can be derived from this work. Firstly coaches, managers and team captains need to understand the importance of developing and implementing team building activities into their season plans and outside of the working environment. Coaches need to make sure they are implementing their ideas correctly and use as many different team building activities as possible. Team building and cohesion is arguably a major difference between the highly successful team/coach and a less successful one. There is however often one argument that goes on, is the coach or sport psychologist best placed to implement these team building activities. For me it is the coach/manager with indirect supervision from a highly trained and expert sport psychologist.