Most youth sports teams are going to have players of varying skill levels. For some kids this might be their first season playing while others have been learning how to kick a soccer ball since they could walk. Some of your players may be great friends from school or other extracurricular activities, or maybe nobody knows anybody else. Whatever team dynamic you find yourself facing at the beginning of each season, a little team bonding can go a long way into turning a dozen youth athletes into one solidified team. Here are a few team bonding exercises worth a try:
Wrong-Way Wiffle Ball
(Created by Colleen Hacker of PLU. Click here for full Wrong Way Wiffle Ball rules)
Imagine playing baseball backwards—you have to bat with your non-dominate hands, run to 3rd base instead of 1st, throw with your non-dominate arm and so forth—not a very easy task is it? The whole point of wrong-way waffle ball is to teach your players that it’s ok to make mistakes and fail. Youth athletes are still learning how to play the game, and they are going to make mistakes along the way. The question is will they let those mistakes hold them back or will they learn from them and get better. Wrong-way waffle ball teaches your players that mistakes aren’t anything to be ashamed of and even the best and most talented players can mess up.
To Be or Knot To Be
Being on a youth sports team means working together as a team and this team bonding exercise literally gets your athletes moving together. Have your players form a circle, close their eyes and reach across the circle with their right hand to grab a random teammate’s hand. Have them do the same thing with the left, making sure they grab a different teammate’s hand. Once everyone is connected have your players open their eyes. They are now a human knot! Without letting go of anyone, have the team untangle themselves and return to a full circle. They’ll have to work together and see the big picture to make sure everyone get uncrossed. This team bonding exercise shows your players how important each of their teammates is and how working as a team is the only way to win.
This is a great team building exercise for promoting trust and listening amongst your players. Create a maze on the field/court using whatever equipment you have handy (helmets, gloves, buckets, etc). Divide your players into pairs and have one player close their eyes. Their partner has to lead them through the maze of objects with just their voice. If the player working their way through the maze accidentally hits an object they have to start over. Once the first player is through the maze they switch roles. The purpose of this team building exercise is to promote trust among your players (they have to trust their teammate to not let them walk into anything!) and how to listen to each other. For instance, two baseball outfielders have to listen to each other so they don’t run into each other or miss a fly ball during a play.
What fun team building exercises do you use to help your players get to know and trust one another?