Playing on a youth or school sports team is the highlight of many of our childhoods. We create long lasting memories and make friends we keep in touch with for years afterwards. But what happens when a team doesn’t gel right away?
Some teams do need an extra push to come together as one, to become close off the field so they can work together effectively on the field. And any of us that have played sports know that teams that get along play better. So, as manager or coach, what can you do to expedite the bonding experience? Here are six team building games for youth and teenagers. Try these out and you’ll have a tighter group in no time!
1. Change the game
Something as simple as playing a different sport than what you’re used to can provide a much needed change of pace and remove the pressure put on players to always perform at a high level, even in practice.
There are a few ways to do this. First, you could play a modified version of your sport. So, for a baseball team, put away the gloves and substitute a hardball for a wiffle ball. For a hockey team, flip the sticks over and throw a ring into the mix for a little ringette. Alternatively, you could just play another sport altogether. Try playing some touch football with your basketball team, or go to the driving range with your softball team. Getting players out of their element always makes for a good time — and a few laughs.
2. Go watch the pros
Taking in a local professional game is always a hit among sports teams. For any young athlete, there’s no better place to look for inspiration or motivation than those that are the best in the world at your sport. But not only can you learn a thing or two by watching the top players, you can also have a whole lot of fun cheering on your hometown team. As manager, you can spice things up by organizing some friendly betting in the form of a squares pool or prop bets. And watching from the stands rather than at field level can be a refreshing change!
3. Pizza night
There aren’t that many foods that can bring a group closer on their own, but the team pizza party is one of the classic team building activities for teenagers that can achieve things no motivational speech can. For whatever reason, a few bottles of soda and a couple slices of pepperoni have a mysterious ability to put kids — or adults for that matter — in a great mood. With sugar levels high and smiles wide, they’re bound to get along better than ever. Once properly digested, those bonds should transfer over to the playing field.
4. Scavenger Hunt
Among fun team building games for youth, the scavenger hunt is one that brilliantly incorporates competition, strategy, and teamwork — all important aspects of any sport. And since the game encourages teams to finish quickly, its high speeds promote exercise too.
But scavenger hunts can be a way to break up team cliques and get players from different position groups or that wouldn’t normally compete together on the same team. In the heat of battle, players are forced to make group decisions quickly and will need to pull in the same direction. Win or lose, they’ll be doing so as a team.
5. Community Service
If the term team building causes eyes to roll, then choose something with a goal much more noble than bonding: helping out others. Community service is a great learning experience for any young person, and many students will be required to complete a number of hours regardless. So organize for a few different groups of student athletes to perform their community service hours together.
They can help out at a local food bank, bag groceries, clean up the streets, spend time at a retirement home, and so many other things. At the end of the day, the kids will feel good about themselves and the work they’ve done — and they might just find themselves a little closer with their teammates too.
6. Low-tech Social Network
Kids these days… they’re obsessed with their social media! This sports team bonding activity works well when the players don’t know each other very well. So if they’re avoiding real life interaction and burying their heads into their smartphones, bring their social network to life — sort of.
What you need for this activity is a whiteboard, index cards, and markers. Then you’ll have each player create their ‘profile’ where they can write a few things about themselves. Then they’ll stick their index card on the whiteboard and they should draw connecting lines between their profile and the players they already know, adding how they know each other.
Then, by talking with other players and uncovering little known details in common (Our brothers played together! We’re from the same hometown!) you can create lines between every player on the team. And voilà — the ice is broken and everyone feels like they know one another a little better.
Once you see the results of a tightly bonded team on the field, court, or ice, you’ll be convinced to implement these team building strategies regularly. Often when a team beats another more talented team, it’s because they had better chemistry. And in-game chemistry always starts away from the playing surface. So try these out, then pull up a chair and watch what happens next!