What is team building? “Bringing a group of people together, establishing mutual goals and unifying individuals towards those goals,” is how A study by the Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) found that expert coaches defined team building.
Team building activities are a fun way to get to know teammates, learn how to solve problems with them, and learn how to trust them.
1. Birthday Line-Up
Have the players line themselves up in the order of their birthdays based on month and day from left to right, e.g., January 4, January 15, February 1, etc.
Sound too easy? You’re right. The team has to organize the line with no talking allowed. The players will have to find more creative ways to express themselves and will have to make a real effort to understand their teammates.
This activity helps with nonverbal communication, self-organization, and team problem solving.
2. Lava Island
Draw a circle large enough to fit the entire team comfortably. Have players lie around the outside of the circle with their feet touching the edge. Then have the players take a small object and place it on the ground above their heads. The players will then stand together inside of the circle. Everything outside of the circle becomes hot, deadly “lava.”
The goal is to collect all of the items outside of the circle without leaving the circle’s border and without touching the lava. The players will have to get creative and work together in order to reach the objects.
This activity helps the team learn to focus on a goal. The players must also figure out a way to work together since nobody can reach the objects by themselves.
The previous two tips come from the United States Scouting Service Project.
3. Pass the Stone
Divide the team into two parallel lines, and have them sit facing each other. Each team starts with a stone or other small object at one end of the line. Say “Pass!” The player holding the object can either pass it or pretend to pass it to the next person. Say “Pass!” again. The second player can either pass the object (if they have it) or pretend to pass the object. This goes on until “Pass!” is called for the second to last player in the line. At this point, the teams must determine who in the opposite line is actually holding the object.
This activity requires individual concentration and attention to detail. When the team is debating who is holding the stone, they must be able to communicate effectively, meaning everyone gets a chance to offer his or her idea and everyone must listen to the details other players noticed in order to win.
This activity is from Teampedia.
4. The Human Knot
In this activity, the students stand in a tight circle and join hands with two people across from them. After everyone is holding hands with two other people, the group must untangle itself without letting go or breaking the link.
The team must communicate effectively to complete this task. Because some players are farther away, they may be better able to see how another player can get untangled. They must be able to give clear directions, and the player receiving instructions must be able to listen and follow through.
This activity is from Active.com
5. Drawing Together
This is another team building activity that focuses on communication and listening skills.
With players paired up sitting back-to-back, give one player a notebook and pencil. The other player will have a copy of a piece of art or an unknown object and must give precise directions to his or her partner on how to draw it. Whichever team gets their drawing the most like the original wins. Because there are multiple teams giving directions at the same time, the drawer must learn to use selective hearing to drown out the noise. The non-drawer must be able to communicate precise directions.
This activity inspired by eHow.
6. The Lines of Trust
This team building activity, as the name implies, focuses on trust.
Have the team stand shoulder-to-shoulder in parallel lines about 2 to 3 feet across. One player will spin in a circle 15 times as fast as they can and then try to run down the middle. The players in the lines stand with their arms out ready to catch the dizzy player at any moment. Each player gets a chance to run done the middle of the team and experience the team saving them from their falls.
This activity was listed on Global Post
7. Walking into Walls
Here’s another trust building exercise that’s a little more advanced.
Draw or tape a line on the ground. Have the players pair up and stand about 15 feet apart. One player, Partner A, will be a few feet behind the line. Partner B will close his or her eyes and on “Go!” will start walking directly toward their partner. The standing partner will say “Stop!” On this command, Partner B must stop immediately. The goal is to get as close as possible to the line without touching or going over it.
If you have the time, it’s best to have each pair go individually. This prevents the confusion of Partner B hearing multiple people yelling “Stop!” without knowing if it was his or her partner.
This activity requires a few skills. One, the walking player must trust that the partner will stop them in time. Two, the standing partner must control their timing. They must learn to account for the time it takes their partner to hear the command and then physically stop. This activity can be done in rounds, with each round swapping the roles and making the movement a little bit faster.
This activity was inspired by Pivotal Education
8. Clam Free
This exercise is intended to foster a positive attitude and a proactive approach to stopping negativity.
To begin, start in a large open space. Using a soft dodge ball or Nerf ball, have one player function as the “negative energy reactor” that gives out freezing negative energy. The other players are “happy as a clam,” and must dodge the negative energy thrown out by the negative energy reactor. When a clam is hit, they must freeze in place. Two or more clams can join hands around a frozen clam and shout “Clam free!” to free the player. If 5 or more clams (depending on the size of your team) can link together and count to 10 without being frozen, the clams win.
Teamwork is essential in this activity, as the clams must work together not only to free their frozen teammates but to win the game. They also see how quickly negative energy can spread and how it can only be stopped when the team stands together.
This activity was developed by TeamBuildingHQ.
Some Final Tips for Coaches
For kids, team building activities should be a fun and challenging experience.
The more physical the activity, the better the kids will respond. In general, but especially with young players, we are better able to remember what we do than what we talk about or read. The more their body is involved, the more they will retain the lessons associated with the activity.
Try asking questions after the activities. Ask them to explain how they felt at certain moments. Ask them how and why they organized their team or solved a problem the way they did. Explaining the reasoning behind their feelings and decisions can cement the values they’re learning.
Consider starting a chart to keep track of the team building values and lessons learned over the course of the season. You can divide this into categories like “Things that make a great team player” and “Things that make a bad team player.” Have the team add their ideas to the chart after each activity. Then periodically review the chart as necessary.
Start new teams off with an ice breaker. This is especially important for shy or introverted kids. Playing a get-to-know-you game can help the kids relax and start the bonding process. You probably only have to do this when working with a new team mix, usually at the beginning of the season. Check out our article on “Ice Breaker Ideas for New Teammates.”
Praise the players when they demonstrate a skill they’ve learned from the activities, like active listening, attention to detail, and effective communication. Positive recognition is one of the most important ways to maintain the team’s positive can-do attitude. Praise can also improve individual and team performance.
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