Looking back, I feel so fortunate as a player both in high school (Archbishop John Carroll, PA) and in college (Syracuse University) to have been a part of teams who played for each other. Because of these teams, I learned early in my lacrosse career that teams that have a special emotional connection play for something bigger than themselves.
Now as a coach, more than anything, I want my players to graduate feeling that they were part of a true team. A team where they could depend on each other on and off the field, where they felt respected and a sense of belonging, and where they formed friendships that would last a lifetime.
Team bonding activities can be used to encourage this type of team atmosphere. I’m not talking about the ones that feel stuffy and forced, but the ones that are exciting, fun and create opportunities for each member to share their individuality. My goal is that afterwards, each player feels good about being a part of the unit and knows that without each individual person, the team would not be the same. I’ve found that these types of team bonding activities can be really hard to find or hard to remember in the midst of season, especially ones that don’t cost any money to run. So, here is a list of all my favorite ideas to help you save a little time on Google this season (These are not all my personal ideas, just ideas I’ve compiled over the years and a few from former teammates/friends – thanks to all!). I hope you find them useful and they help create a team atmosphere like the ones I was and currently am so lucky to be part of!
The “Getting-to-know-you” Team Bonding
- 2 Truths and a lie Icebreaker: Sit your team in a circle. Each player (in whatever order) creates three statements. Out of those, two statements about themselves are truths and one is a lie. Everyone else in the room has to guess which one is the lie. This is a great one to play after a summer or winter break to re-connect on what you were up to!
- Teammate Trivia: Give each team member a questionnaire of silly questions for them to fill out (ex: pet peeves, any pregame superstitions, items they would bring on a deserted island, etc) and pick questions to quiz the team. Option 1: you can also make a “Jeopardy” board out of it. Option 2: make it competitive and split up the team into positions A/M/D and see which position group knows each other best.
- Playing Card Icebreaker: You’ll need a deck of cards. Spread them out in the center of the room and have everyone sit in a circle around them. Don’t have anyone pick a card until it is their turn! First person will go up, pick a card and depending on what that card is – they’ll check the reference sheet and do/talk about whatever topic their card equals. You’ll need to create your own reference sheet (For example: Joker card- tell a joke or an embarrassing story. King card- talk about your favorite lacrosse memory. Queen Card- talk about a female that you admire. Jack- sing a verse of your favorite song, etc…). This is lots of fun and the best part is they can’t rehearse what they are going to say before it’s their turn so it’s truly off the cuff!
- Thankful Challenge: Our team did this in November in our group chat and it was awesome! The coaches created a calendar for the month. Each day there was a new subject of something to be thankful for. You can make topics ranging from family, to a favorite spot on campus, their favorite hometown spot, and even fun ones like favorite snapchat filter. Each day, each person texts their own picture from your themed calendar to your team group chat. This is a really easy and fun way to get the team to know each other with minimal team time involved!
- Team Buddies: If you don’t do a lot of team bonding- this is a great place to start. Split your team into pairs (we do upperclassmen/underclassmen pairings) and encourage them to write pump up notes for game days, support each other on and off the field, look out for each other, etc.
The “Feel Good” Team Bonding
- Yarn String Game: A fan favorite! All you need is a ball of yarn in your team colors. Have everyone on your team including the coaches sit in a circle. One person starts with the yarn and says something positive/good (it can be any theme you want) about another teammate/coach and then throws the ball of yarn to that person. Each person continues holding onto their piece of the yarn once they have gone. Only rule is that you cannot give it to the person next to you. By the end, you create a really cool web of yarn that shows how connected the team is and how even when things get messy (aka the yarn) we are all in this together. We usually cut your piece of the yarn and wear it on your wrist/cleat/somewhere visual for as long as you can. (Side note- I am now 32 and I still remember doing this with my high school field hockey team!)
- “Got your back” Activity: Tape a piece of paper to each person’s back. Give the team a theme of what they are going to write to each other (Ex: It can be what they bring to the team, their role for game day, why you are thankful for them, one word that describes them, etc.) Each person goes around the room and writes on everyone else’s papers, either signing their names or writing notes anonymously.
- Speed Teaming: A silly spin off from “speed dating.” You can do it one of two ways:
- Classroom Style: Split your team up in half. If you have 30 people on your team, have 15 people sit and stay stationary while the other 15 people move from one person to the next until they hit all 15 people. Each person has 30 seconds to talk about the other person in a topic you choose (Ex: A word that describes them, how they support the team, the core value that best describes them, etc.). Bring water, it involves lots of talking, but it’s a lot of fun!
- Indian Style: You are with a partner sitting Indian Style with your knees touching one another. A coach keeps the clock. This time, one player speaks for 30 seconds and talks about herself answering a question from the coach (Ex: Who are you? What kind of player are you? What are your goals?) You have to speak for the full 30 seconds and partners maintain eye contact the whole time. After the 30 seconds, the next partner talks for 30 seconds and then the coach can switch the question.
- The Human Knot: Form Groups of about 7-10 people. Have each group stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, facing each other. When the coach says “go,” each person lifts their left arm first and holds hands with someone on the other side of the circle. Next, do the same with your right arm (a different person). No one should be holding hands with someone next to them. When the coach says “go,” the group works together to communicate, listen, and untangle the human knot without letting go of their teammates’ hands. If any member breaks the chain, the entire group starts over from the beginning.
- Minefield: Classic Communication game. Create partners within the team. One partner is blindfolded while the other partner verbally leads them through a minefield of cones and other obstacles. First team to complete the course wins.
The “Let’s make a change/get over a hump” Team Bonding
- Hero, Highlight, Hardship: Most of you probably remember this one from when Jon Gordon met with our IWLCA membership. This is SUCH a powerful exercise and one that can immediately open eyes and unite a team. Sit in a circle. I usually don’t have an order and let people talk whenever they feel comfortable to take their turn (and some people won’t want to go and that is fine). Each person says who is their Hero in their life, a personal Highlight for them in their life, and a Hardship they have been through in their life. Plan for at least an hour and a half for this one.
- Bury a Ball Team Exercise: This is good for getting the team to make a change when in a slump. Each person goes around and writes on a lacrosse ball something they want to personally bury (can be about the team or about their own play or up to the coach.) Once everyone has gone, you go outside and bury the ball together.
- Start, Stop, Continue Team Exercise: Either have each person brainstorm on their own to start or split them into groups. Each person or group has to think of ideas of things that the team either wants to Start doing better, Stop doing (something that is hurting the team on or off the field), or something to Continue to do (something you already do well on or off the field). Write it up on the whiteboard and take a picture to print and handout to team after or post in lockers.
- Playing Time Notecards: A great one if your team is struggling with playing time issues. Give each person an index card. Anonymously, each person answers the following questions on their notecard. How many minutes per game should you play this season? Should you start? How many points per game should you score? Gather all the cards and add up all of the minutes, starting positions, and points and share with the team. Most times you will find about three games worth of all of the items collected. A great way to visualize together that there are only twelve people on the field, and although each person is important on this team, not everyone will be on the field at every minute.
- Secret Teammate Week: A fun one to spice things up when it’s getting stale. Assign each teammate to someone else on the team who will act like a “secret santa” by leaving positive notes or quotes in the other’s locker, or a fun snack, or anything they think their teammate will enjoy. At the end of the week, each player has to guess who their secret teammate was.
Fun Interactive Bonding
- Skits/Impressions/Talent Shows: Always fun and you can organize however you want.
- Scavenger Hunts/Amazing Race/Minute to Win it Challenge: Again, always fun and you can make it as long or short as you want!
- Pre-practice Motivator: A new person gets to run the team’s pre practice huddle for the day. They can bring a motivational quote or story to get the team fired up! A great way to give each person on the team a voice!
- Tug of War Competitions: Who doesn’t get competitive with tug of war?!
- Community Service: Always a great way to connect the team and feel a sense of gratitude all together.
In closing, I hope you found some helpful ideas to try with your team. You never know, these moments could be the ones your athletes will remember forever, like me! Best of luck to all this upcoming season!
Note: If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments! I always love new ideas to try!