A new season can be exhilarating for some and a nervous endeavor for others. A player returning to a team that she has been with for a few years will likely be looking forward to seeing her teammates and throwing the ball around for the first time in the season. Many players will play with their softball team mates on another sport team however when they hit the softball field it is important for a transition to this sport to take place. When a team adds new players which is generally every season, there will be a need for team building considerations. This team conduct activity will help to build a positive and productive foundation for the start of the season.
Team Conduct Activity
One of the first things we do as coaches and even captains is to start thinking of how to bring the team together as a cohesive group. This activity will be great for breaking the ice and establishing the importance of team participation and mutual respect amongst one another on and off the field.
- White Board
- Erasable White Board Markers
- Paper & Pens
This activity can be done anywhere that is comfortable for all of the players. It could be done in the back yard of a team members house, in the gymnasium or on the field at the park.
The first thing that has to happen is to ensure that all participants are important and that there is no respectable idea that is not worth mentioning. It is important for all players on the team and even the coaches and administrative staff to take part because it is something that will have an effect on the complete environment of the team for the year.
Break the team into groups and then bring the team back together to discuss the findings of each group.
Each group has a piece of paper or even poster board and writes down what in their opinion will make the season a positive experience and how the players and leaders can contribute to the environment. This could be anything from how people talk to each other to how the structure is developed such as who puts the equipment away. The size of the groups will dictate the amount of time given for the first part of the activity. Larger groups will require more time and of course smaller groups will not.
Every participant in each group will add at least one idea to the list and then the group will discuss the idea before going to the next one. Consider how the idea will effect the experience of the whole team, what changes might need to be made, and what the potential roadblocks might be. It is important for the groups to understand the idea from the players perspective because it is easy to jump to conclusions without getting all of the information. Some ideas might come from experiences on previous teams or how things happened during the last season.
It is hard to say how long this will take because you do not know what kinds of things might come up during the activity. For this reason it is important to have an adult with each group to moderate and to keep the activity on track. The last thing we want is to have players hashing out things that happened in the past without providing solutions for the upcoming season. Allow sharing of the positive experiences and limit any negative aspects of an experience to only what is necessary to convey the message. Allow enough time for all players to participate within reason. Some may have a quick recommendation and some may want to elaborate on their idea.
Once the groups are finished their part of the activity, have the groups come together. The coach or facilitator has the white board and marker to write down a summary of all of the ideas. Each group will share their ideas either with one person being the messenger or the one who thought of the idea can share it. There will likely be duplicate ideas that come across however each instance of the same idea might have a different message behind it so it is important for it to be heard. Once a summary has been compiled and written on the white board, allow the team (including staff) to add or elaborate on the list. It is important for everyone to feel like they are being heard and that they participated in the process.
It can then be put into an email and sent to the team and then printed on a piece of paper and laminated for the dugout. It will be a good reminder of the team conduct and how the whole team participated in it so they will be more committed to their guidelines.
It is a good idea to devote an entire practice session to this team conduct activity. Order pizza or have snacks which will put players at ease and create a working environment that is not threatening. You can even have little things around like silly putty or things that they can play with during the activity. This allows for nervous energy to be dispersed on something else rather than creating anxiety in the group. You will need to established that even though the implements are their, they are only something to take away nerves and not the focus of the activity. This will be especially useful for new players to the team who are not yet feeling safe with their new “family” that they will likely be spending a lot of time with over the next number of months.
The age of your players will have an effect on how the team conduct activity is set up and run. Be aware though that 8 year old kids have a lot to say and sometimes might just need some help getting it out. It is important that the final summary is done in their own language because they will understand it better than adult words on the sheet. Older players contributions will of course be different and the way the activity is set up should reflect that. It is critical that a positive and safe working environment is created so that everyone can be honest and not feel like they will be criticized or judged. This will be an awesome start to a great season that contributes to self direction because players can be themselves without feeling threatened.