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Teaching Teamwork

Whether you are working with a team made up of mainly returning players or your makeup looks more new than old, there's one thing that can always be improved upon: sense of team. In fact, constantly building upon your athletes’ teamwork can even put them in a better position to win games. And beyond sport, teamwork is also a skill that they will carry and use throughout their lives.

Teaching teamwork doesn’t have to be hard, and it also doesn’t have to involve a lot of work outside of daily practices and games. In a blog for the Female Coaching Network, Brenita Jackson, co-founder of KBJ Academy and former women’s college basketball coach, offers some tips to coaches for teaching this skill. First, Jackson suggests positioning players based on their strengths to help boost confidence, morale, and commitment. While doing this, coaches should get to know and try to teach to each player’s learning style, whether it’s through explaining, watching, or practicing new information and plays.

“For instance: When [we] teach new plays, we always give hard copies of the plays in each player’s playbook, we talk about how to execute each play in practice, we allow each player to get multiple repetitions in practice then we go back and watch the film of the plays to study together,” writes Jackson.

Next, Jackson stresses the importance of establishing team leaders. This entails getting to know which players will uphold team values both during and outside of practice and games. It also means taking some time to flesh out your expectations and making sure that your leaders understand what you need and want from them on a daily basis. And, as Jackson explains, this will help build teamwork as those players will help keep the team acting as one both on and off the field of play.

Establishing and teaching teamwork means not only finding the right leaders, but also creating the right goals. But Jackson explains that this means more than purely sitting at your desk and writing out a list of goals on your own. Instead, she recommends getting together with your team as a whole to discuss and decide upon these objectives. And these goals should include more than just winning a certain match or a specific number of games in a season.

“Once goals are outlined, ask [your] players who is willing to do what it takes to reach these goals,” writes Jackson. “...Each player should take ownership as their own contribution to these goals. This is how you get commitment from players to give consistent WORK to the team’s overall production.”

Even after implementing each of these ideas, some coaches might still see a lack of teamwork among their players. If this occurs, Jackson also suggests creating a way to integrate camaraderie into games or even practices. How can a coach do this? According to Jackson, it’s as easy as having players celebrate each other’s accomplishments, whether it’s through a chant, a cheer, or personalized hand shake. And it all starts by being an example for your athletes.

“Set the standard by acknowledging when a player executes direction or a play that gives them success with a high five or clapping for them,” write Jackson. “The more players see you get excited, the more they will get excited. Camaraderie is a learned behavior but once developed will create a sisterhood [or brotherhood] that will help sustain you through the wins and losses to stick together.”

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