Incorporating team building exercises into practice has been one of the most impactful things I have done as a coach! My mission when coaching is to create an environment where everyone feels safe, valued, has a voice, and experiences joy every day! Coaches should strive to incorporate focus and fun into their basketball practices.
If you want to learn more about basketball specific principles and drills to create a championship culture, please check out my book, “Help Them Up” on Amazon.
The below exercises can be used for all team sports!
3 Practical Steps for Team Building
Question of the Day
Every day at the start of practice, we circle up. I ask if anyone has anything they want to share with the group. I have also used this time to praise someone for a good teammate moment I observed them do, had the team sing happy birthday to a team member, etc. Then, I share a question of the day or ask the team to think of one.
Everyone gets into groups of two or three and during a warmup lap and they ask each other the question. I ask them to pick a different teammate every day, so they get a chance to connect with everyone. They jog back to the circle, and I ask if anyone wants to share something they learned.
The team always enjoys learning about teammates. I have seen friendships develop through this exercise because they find commonalities about each other they previously didn’t know about.
A few examples:
- What is your favorite topic to talk about and why?
- What do you like to do on the weekends?
- Do you have any pets? If so, how many and what are their names? (With my team, they love talking about their pets!)
- What is a goal you have for today’s practice and is there anything I can do to help you with it?
- What are you grateful for?
A few years ago, I attended a UConn Women’s basketball practice. It was incredible! They were in complete unison when executing their dynamic warm-up. Since that day, I have been very intentional with warming-up as a team which prevents side conversations, shows unity, and creates elite level communication!
I have my team line up on the sideline and they do the exercises to the opposite sideline. I select someone to be the leader of the day or ask for a volunteer who then energetically yells out the exercises. The team then responds in a loud and energetic tone the name of the exercise. Then the leader yells, “go” and the team, while in unison, travel across the court trying to stay synchronized with all teammates.
For example, the leader will yell, “high knees” and then the team yells, “high knees” followed by the leader yelling, “Go”. We proceed with exercises like defensive slides, skips, lunges, jog, back pedal, etc.
I love to make this player led and have them take accountability over their team.
A few years ago, I attended a USA Basketball youth development clinic. I was amazed by Coach Joe Mantegna at Blair Academy (New Jersey) and his presentation on building a culture. He shared this concept which happens at the end of practice for 5-10 minutes and after games.
We meet in a circle so everyone can make eye contact with each other. You can choose to have players put their arms around each other to stay connected.
When first introducing and teaching the team this exercise, I shared, “This is a safe space, and everyone needs to be respectful of one another. We will invest time everyday doing this because it will help us all grow as individuals and as a team. We are not stating things about any specific person, rather their actions and words that we witnessed that specific day. For the first few weeks we will only say positive things about each other and then if we do a good job, we will allow everyone to share feedback that may be tough to hear but said with the intent to help us improve.”
However, the coaches can interrupt if someone shares something unkind or not helpful to the team. The coach can explain why what was said was not helpful and why. It works best when the coaches don’t speak first and allow for some silence so teammates can use their voice to build up teammates. This exercise was key to our team building. It single handedly elevated my team’s culture and use it consistently.