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February 16, 2011 • Coaching

Five ways to instantly connect with your team

Usually when we talk about building chemistry, we’re talking about cohesion amongst the players. But it’s just as important that the team connects with the coach. Let’s look at five easy ways that you can connect with your team and build great chemistry with them.

Building team chemistry

1. Talk to players individually — every day. It’s easy to think that we’re keyed in with everyone on our teams, but I wonder if most of us aren’t closer to our starters than our non-starters. I’ll never forget being in high school and one of my teammates complaining about our track coach — I didn’t agree with her. And she went on to tell me that he treated his most talented athletes much differently than those who weren’t as talented. In the interest of building great team chemistry, taking a moment out of each day to connect with all your athletes is well worth the time.

2. Share positive news. Whether it’s one of your athletes earning “player of the week,” giving a big presentation in class or just performing well in a drill, being loud with praise is important. We encourage our athletes to challenge themselves and to take risks, so failure is a constant partner on the road to success. I’ve been known to stop an entire practice and make everyone focus in on one player who’s doing exactly what I want. It makes that player feel good and everyone else silently hopes that they’ll get the chance one day.

3. Give your leaders room to lead. I used to have one day a season that was designated as a “Captain’s Practice,” meaning that they ran the entire practice. Of course, I had to see a practice plan and feel positive that everyone gave input, but essentially it was their day. Whatever you decide to do, it’s pretty important that your captains are more than figureheads but actually have responsibilities.  Organizing team and community service events, being the gauge for your team’s temperature, and being both vocal leaders and leaders by example are ways that they can really stretch their leadership wings.

4. Reward players for accomplishing short-term goals. Most teams have the same big goals, but those require many little goals along the way. “Winning conference” or “becoming an all-American” doesn’t just happen. And just saying it certainly doesn’t make it happen. So as your team meets certain benchmarks during the season, be sure to acknowledge the effort and come up with some way to give them a pat on the back.

5. Help with the menial tasks. As a coach, I will shag the occasional ball every now and then or help take down the nets after practice. Not too often, but enough that the team doesn’t think my hands are broken and that’s why I don’t help out.

Give these suggestions some consideration and watch as your players gradually build more appreciation for your leadership in the program.

Dawn Redd is the head volleyball and assistant track & field coach at Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin. 


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