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Creating Athlete Relationships

As a coach, it’s important to teach the specifics of your sport. But something that shouldn’t get lost in the X’s and O’s is the creation of relationships not only between coach and athletes, but also between the athletes themselves. Coaches can help with this by incorporating team bonding right into their plans for the season.

In a blog for his website, John M. Cissik, MS, CSCS, describes a few ideas that have worked for him in forming relationships on his team. First, he explains the importance of creating common experiences that the athletes go through at the same time. One of the ways that Cissik does this is through their warm-ups.

“Our warm-up for practices consists of calisthenic exercise that are done to the numbers, with everyone moving together,” writes Cissik. “In other words these are done military style. Not only is everyone moving together, but everyone counts them out loud together. Besides being something that we go through together, it also makes us stay on the same page from the very beginning of practice.”

Another process for team building is to build a team that can operate during a game without a lot of correction and shouting from you. According to Cissik, when athletes are familiar with the fundamentals of their sport and scenarios that could occur, they are more likely to communicate. This also allows the coach more time to motivate players and focus on specific plays. And when it comes to practices, Cissik incorporates drills and scrimmages that enforce identity to help build unity.

“While each individual has to perform, the teams have to work together and understand the situation in order to be successful,” writes Cissik. “With that in mind, the drills and scrimmages that I put together are all designed to do several things; teach/reinforce specific skills, reinforce the need for teamwork and communication, and serve as a difficult but shared experience.”

Last, Cissik creates themes to use throughout the season. To do this, Cissik takes stock of what his athletes and the team are doing well and what they are struggling with. Once he deduces what his team needs to work on most, he comes up with a short theme, such as “We not me,” and creates signs, shirts, or workout cards to emphasize these words. And this isn’t done just once for the season, Cissik goes through this process each week.

“With themes, keep them very short, a short sentence,” writes Cissik. “These need to be memorable. After our warm-up we talk about the theme (which I write on a white board). Then at the end of practice we meet and sum up what we did, why we did it, and how it relates back to our theme.”

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