5 Tips for Building Excellent Team Chemistry
All great teams throughout the history of sports reference team chemistry as key to their success, players playing the game for each other, sharing a collectivism that overrides any sense of individualism or selfishness.
It's not about personal goals or records, playing on a team is about unifying around common goals of hard work, togetherness, and meeting challenges.
Here are 5 tips for building a quality culture of unwavering team chemistry.
1. Set The Tone Early
Laying out the constructs of your team's core values early and often is vital.
During the first week of training, develop a set of agreements that all players must follow and adhere to every time they lace up their boots and come together. Doing this will go a long way in ensuring that no cliques start to pop amongst the players. Talk about what your team stands for, what is inexcusable, and where you want to go as a group.
Setting goals for your squad is key. Dream big. Imagine what if. During tryouts, it should be easy for a coach or manager to get a grip on the level of the players, how far they can go, what they should strive for. Set the benchmark. Ask the players what they want to achieve. Then ask them to push it even a little further.
2. Do Some Fun Team Building Exercises
Youth players, and adults alike, love team building exercises and you can utilize them as interludes between high intensity drills/activities in a session.
There are a number of different exercises you can try with your players, but one of my favorite involves forming two teams, and setting up an 'obstacle course' around the 18 yard-box with cones, pugg goals, whatever you have available.
Blind fold one player from each team with a soccer sock. On the coach's command, spin the blindfold players for 30 seconds then say go. The players of each opposing team must then go out into the box, blindfolded, find a ball, and put it in a goal for a point. This great exercise is a blast for the players and helps foster the communication and trust that is needed on the pitch between teammates.
Check out one version of this being done by Wayne State College in this video:
3. Ask Your Players What the Highlight of Their Weekend/Day Was
At the start of a new week of training, it's always nice to gather the players as a group, and go around ask each one to give a 30 second update on their weekend.
It takes some time from training but helps the girls get to know each other, creates some talking points that might become commonalities between the players, and also shows your players that you care about their lives outside of soccer. You can also apply this same tact any day of the week.
Youth players have a ton going on in their lives off the pitch, they are stressed by school, parents, siblings, you name it, taking the time to connect with each player during juggling, or a technical warmup, will go a long, long way in building the player/coach rapport.
4. Create Some Nicknames for Your Players
Sounds hokey enough, but youth players love it when coaches find nicknames for their players. It makes them feel welcome, important, and is a fun way to strengthen team chemistry.
Make sure the name you've chosen is positive, and if the player doesn't like it it's obviously critical that it's not used. There's never been a player that doesn't like a good nickname, get creative, use good natured humor, energy, whatever it takes. It creates a strong bond amongst the players and the coach.
5. Embrace Peer Dialogue and Positive Critique
It is critical that you create a culture of peer review and positive feedback between your players. Create this culture in training, reinforcing when a teammate makes a suggestion, our player point, to another teammate in a drill. Embrace that form of player-to-player communication. Half-time of a match is also a great time for peers to share their views on the first-half.
Go for an open face sandwich approach. Ask the players to raise their hands, look for three positive things that the players felt were happening on the pitch, then move onto the what the players want to improve on in the second-half. Allow players to piggy-back on each other's comments, but don't have comments about other comments happen
The players on the pitch are the one's playing the game, not the coach. Let them share what they're experiencing with each other and it will build team spirit and trust amongst your players.
Every coach and manager has their own style of developing team chemistry, but it is undoubtedly one of the most important components of a successful team. If you channel some of the five tips mentioned above, there is no doubt that your team chemistry will grow exponentially, and you'll have a great shot at exceeding your goals!