Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 16:39
I always hate it when people go "Let's do some teambuilding activities". Teambuilding is an elementary part of your work as a coach it should be ingrained with everything you do. Apart from a lot of stuff that might over complicate things I strongly believe that the team atmosphere improves a lot when everybody can catch a ball and tackle a player. So by simply improving the ball handling and tackling skills, you can improve the team atmosphere by 50%. Passing is a teambuilding activity. This is a big point I want to make: any rugby training is one big teambuilding exercise!
One of these professionals who organizes expensive company off-sites to built teams once said to me how jealous he was of what we do with scrums and line-outs, interaction between players and the specific team roles in rugby. We do not seem to understand how great our sport is at this teamwork stuff.
To give you some background to the process of teambuilding I set up some pages. I would like to discuss four issues:
- How does a successful team look?
- Fun and performance
- Aspects of teambuilding
- Phases of a team development cycle
I hope that you realize you can improve on the teambuilding aspect of your rugby coaching work very easily.
Luckily I was part of a successful team myself and I can recognise these values. Do you?
- Develop motivation: team spirit, a common enemy (the Union, an arch rival)
- Support from the club, feel that what the needs to move forward is supported by the club;
- Trust: self confidence, lots of hard work at training, analytical, leadership;
- Organisation, where no one worries: training, eat/drink, fun, logistics;
- Image of the opponent: own superiority;
Can you have both? Do teams that want to achieve top results still have fun? I believe they can! Research (at the workplace) has shown which factors the coach has to focus on for the team to have fun :
- Show interest in the individual player
- Shown your appreciation and celebrate successes
- Communicate vision and goals
- Give space
- Stimulate honest feedback
Most of these "Fun" Factors are part of the model I discuss next.
You need to develop the players. With their individual strengths they are your individual assets that need to pieced together to form that high performance team. How to do this? A popular theory of Carron defines four different areas of interest:
- Team Identity
- Team Structure
- Team Goals
- Team Motivation
I would like to deal with these four issues separately and I am sure you will recognize elements of it. For each of these four elements you will then get a To Do list, prioritize this list a go!
From this perspective, I find it interesting to look at what other teams do. When you read up on this theory you understand why the New Zealand All Blacks are so magical.
This is interesting. Everybody wants to be part of group. People identify themselves with social groups. You have to pay attention to this. Think about:
- Organise trips, training weekends, etc, something special;
- A unique name for your team;
- A special kit, logo, etc;
- Remember your players of the history of the team;
- Install some pride in what the team is doing, "Great training session, everybody worked very hard";
- Everything you do will add to the teams history;
- Talk about what it means to be part of the team ("we work hard", "we never give up", "if you want to be part of the team, you have to be there every training session", and many more)
Another element of this Team Structure is I think are team values: attitude or behaviour of or within the team: Are there a set of (implicit) rules? Is there a clear understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour? How did this come to life? You have to realise that as a coach you can direct or influence these factors (stabilise, make predictable).
We had a terrible fight up in a match once after one of my players abused the opponents. A big discussion after the game ("If this is being part of the team, I don't want to be in it") We suspended him and he had to apologise in front of the whole team. (We and our opponents decided to replayed that match by the way)
Within each team you can define clear roles. Most of them are of course related to the traditional positions. First is role clarity, every player knows what to do in every situation (this is sometimes difficult to define so give your players a sort of minimum requirements list). Secondly is the acceptance of the role. Each player should feel comfortable in the position he is playing. Last is the performance of the player in the role.
So without interfering or worrying about the others, the team performance as a whole is lifted if the focus on personal responsibilities is clear. So:
- Team structure, identify the different roles;
- Try to reach consensus on the things you are doing, try to find out what your players want to do;
- Think about your role as the coach in relation with the ideas of the players;
I have added a section on functional team roles to my site. You can use this as a guideline for your players.
What does the team want to achieve?
- Help the team to set themselves clear and realistic goals;
- Make the players understand that they need to adhere to team standards, each individual player shares responsibility for the success of the team;
- Give the individual players and the team as a whole feedback on their progress;
- Accept no rivalry, encourage co-operation;
I have dedicated a whole section of the site to the subject of Goalsetting. I have used this successfully - spent some evenings with the team at the end of the season to talk about the next season. What did the players want to achieve? Later, during the season, players started to realize we were working hard at actually improving what we all decided was needed - that gave a lot confidence in everything we did.
- When you can meet the individual needs of players, those players will be motivated to achieve. Do you know why your players play the game? A very simple example: if a player likes nothing more than to tackle, it is great to give him the no. 7 role.
- Ask for sacrifices for the team, loyalty towards each other;
- Install a sense of responsibility in the players;
- Create a Task Oriented environment instead of and Ego Oriented one;
Make a checklist on these above items and set up a strategy to work on each separate topic.
A pretty well know model of Bruce Tuckman describes four phases that can be distinguished. Forming, that brings players together, Storming, where players try to establish their place in the team. Norming, this is the moment you should show some leadership in setting up standards in behavior. The fourth is Performing, your players working together playing the game of rugby! Some say there is a fifth step, Adjourning. ending the team existence.
I like to see it as a continuing process. On other pages on these topics I try to give examples of what I did in the past in the perspective of these four process steps.
Take a look at the process diagram I made and click on the individual process steps to learn more.
- Look at the May 2004 feature on the website of Richard Stratton 'Coaching Youth Sports' for more information on this and other interesting topics. (tips for athletes, coaches and parents)
- Look at the team roles part of the site;
- A great book on Team Cohesion by Albert Carron;
- The Positive Coaching Alliance has some example speeches for coaches;
- More on the Task Oriented Environment