Icebreaker Games Are Fun Team Building Exercises
Imagine being grouped with 10 completely random strangers and being told you have 30 minutes to solve a complex, high-pressure task, like solving a computer simulated puzzle.
Now imagine being grouped with 10 of your best friends whom you’ve known for years, and then having the same amount of time to complete the same task.
Which scenario sounds easier? Which one sounds like it will have a better result? Which one sounds more enjoyable?
This is exactly why it’s so important to have sports team players create personal bonds. Not everyone will be best friends, but getting to know teammates still fosters the connection that helps the team work cohesively.
These icebreaker activities help players get to know one another. They ease tension when new players are introduced, and they get the ball rolling when starting with a brand new team.
Easing the Tension
These activities are designed to help newly formed teams release some of their nervous energy.
This activity is great for easing nervous tension among a group where few players know each other. Everyone acts a little silly, but nobody is put in the spotlight alone.
Using strips of paper, write down scenarios with reactions that can be acted out. For instance, you can use meeting your celebrity crush, winning the lottery, encountering an alien, etc. Divide the team into two groups, A and B. Group A goes first, with 3 or more of their players drawing slips of paper. They then have 30 seconds to act out their reaction like a mime, but they cannot use words. Group A’s remaining players then have one minute to figure out what 3 scenarios were being depicted. For each correct answer, they get a point.
This continues for Group B, and then the players in both groups swap actor and guesser roles. Whichever group has the most points at the end wins.
This activity inspired by Student Activities of Notre Dame.
In this activity, have each player select a slip of paper with a celebrity name on it. They will then tape this paper to another player’s back. Each player must then go around asking Yes or No questions only to figure out what celebrity they are. They can only ask one question of each player, and it cannot be an open-ended question.
This game helps the team break down walls to encourage communication between as many players as possible.
This activity was catalogued by Global Post.
Getting to Know You
These activities focus on getting to know basic information and random facts about teammates, as well as their deeper values, hopes and dreams.
On strips of paper, write random facts or phrases like “Find someone who has been to Times Square,” “Find someone who has three or more siblings,” and/or “Find someone who has played three or more sports.” Each player gets at least one strip of paper and must find someone who matches the criteria.
This is a very simple and fast game to begin the ice breaking process. It will get players mingling and introducing themselves with simple, memorable facts.
This activity inspired by Youth Group Games.
About You Charades
This game is similar to other simple introduction games, but the players cannot use any words.
Pair the players up in twos. They must mime their entire introduction to each other. This can include facts like hobbies they enjoy, the pets they have, their favorite position to play, how old they are, etc. Then have each player try to verbally introduce their partner to the whole team. The flubs of miscommunication also give an amusing lesson on the importance of proper communication skills.
This activity was compiled by Wayne State University.
Here’s one that’s really great for deeper, more meaningful connections.
Have the players split themselves up by shirt color or some other arbitrary characteristic. Start reading questions about values out loud. After the first question, allow the players to discuss their answers for a minute or two, and then read the next one.
Some question examples: What is something that few people know about you? Why did you join this team? What do you hope to gain from playing on this team? What do you think makes a good teammate? What motto do you try to live by? What weaknesses do you have that you can improve on?
This activity compiled by Wayne State University.
Testing Your Knowledge
Once the players have gotten a chance to know each other, it’s time to put them to the test!
The Blanket Name Game
This game is a true test of name memory.
Divide the team into two groups. Hold up a blanket in between the two groups that blocks their view of each other. Point out two players who have to sit face-to-face with the blanket between them, and then drop the blanket suddenly. The first of the two to say the correct name of the other wins. Let the players rotate who is sitting at the front each round. Be careful to not select the players by pointing and saying their name!
This activity was compiled by BTSkinner.com
Personal Trivia Baseball
The object of this game is to read an interesting fact about a player and guess who it is about.
Hand out four scraps of paper labeled on one side with the letters S, D, T, and HR. Each scrap represents single (1 pt), double (2 pts), triple (3 pts) and homerun (4 pts), respectively. Have the players write interesting facts about themselves for each of these categories. The S scrap should be easier, perhaps something that they may have revealed in front of the group in another activity. The interesting facts about themselves for D, T, and HR get increasingly more difficult or more obscure.
Afterwards, collect the scraps of paper and place them in a baseball diamond pattern. Split the team into two groups. Each group works as a team to get as many points as possible. Each player gets to pick from which pile (S, D, T, or HR) they want to draw. If they pick up a slip that says, “Went to France last summer” and can correctly guess which player wrote that fact, they earn the 1, 2, 3 or 4 points based on the S, D, T, or HR category they chose. The teams get three wrong answers or “outs” before play switches to the other team.
Play continues for 4 innings or until there are no more clues. The team with the most points wins.
This game developed by Student Activities of Notre Dame.
The Well Acquainted Teammate Game
This game is similar to The Newlywed Game show. The idea is to split the team in two, placing one half of the group out of listening distance.
Ask each of the players in the first half a generic question, like what their favorite restaurant is, who their favorite band is, when their birthday is, etc. Write down an answer for one questions for each player.
Then bring back the second group of the team. Ask them all of the questions phrased as “Whose favorite restaurant is ____?” Tell each player of the second group to write down their answers on index cards. After all of the questions, they will flip their answers around. For each correct answer, they get a point.
Afterwards, swap group one and two and play the second round.
If you’d like a game show script or more question ideas, check out this PDFfrom the Charmm’d Foundation.
Some Final Tips for Coaches
The term “icebreaker” is colloquially said to originate from the sailing term “icebreakers.” Icebreakers were specially-designed ships which forged in front of other ships in order to break up dangerous Arctic ice. This allowed the other ships, both passenger, freight and military ships, to move more comfortably without the fear of capsizing.
In these activities, you, the coach, are the actual icebreaker. You are there to help the team move freely among each other without fear. You help break down the barriers that separate the players.
The activities will work best when all of the players feel safe enough to contribute. That means it’s best to start out by establishing a positive team attitude that encourages respect, listening and avoidance of criticism or negativity. Once these values are explained and understood, the team can move forward with easy icebreaker activities. Later on, as they get more comfortable with one another, they can begin the activities that involve discussion of a more vulnerable nature, like the activity “Values Discussion.”
We know that teammates who know each other are more likely to work well together. However, the most useful type of knowledge is not simply the number of cats another player has or how many times they’ve been to Disney World. The greatest effect of the icebreaker activities will be achieved when the players are able to freely discuss their goals, weaknesses and values.
These icebreaker activities are meant to break the ice. They initiate interaction, but it will take time for true bonds to form. Be patient! Remember also that these bonds cannot be forced. If players feel too pressured to connect or feel that they’re supposed to be making best friends, they may begin to subconsciously pull away.
Remind the team that the goal is to know one another’s motives, weaknesses, strengths, and personality to the extent that it brings about an understanding. This understanding will help the team recognize problems in areas like communication and motivation, which they will then be better able to resolve.
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