One of the most valuable benefits of recreational sports is feeling part of a team. To acknowledge an obligation to your teammates (after all, you want to win) and experience a level of collective will with those around you are experiences that both children and adults can benefit from.
As is often the case, the most nourishing benefits of sport are the hardest to develop. Have you ever heard the phrase “team chemistry” before? The comparison with science is accurate in this case because teamwork is based on attitude. Working on the collective attitude of your team means building trust, compassion, and genuine friendship amongst the players – no matter the skill level or competency of the players. Teamwork overrides all the individual attributes of players by generating a collective willpower that is far stronger and more effective.
As you can imagine, creating a sense of teamwork is harder with a new team. If your child is just entering a new team, here are some recommendations to give the coach to help generate positive teamwork:
Most of the interactions the kids have with each other is on the field, either practicing or playing. Sure, there is the brief time for preparation and set-down once the activity is over, but this is hardly enough time for kids to get to know each other.
The solution is paired interviews in the first week of practices with a new team. Have the kids separate into groups of two and ask each other a series of questions. After 15 minutes the group will reconnect and each child can share the funniest answer they received. It’s a great way to break boundaries and get kids to know each other on a personal level before playing together.
Do a Non-Sports Trip
As a parent, you can really spearhead this one. Why not take the group out to the movies? That way they can all hang a little bit outside of the strict confines of the diamond, pitch, or court. Maybe the movies are not as ideal as the arcade – whatever social activity you pick is fine if it brings the kids together. It might surprise you to notice the psychological impact traveling as a team will have on your child. Going places in public as a group instills the notion that they are a ‘pack of wolves’ so to speak. It’s great for team chemistry.
Emphasize Group Goals over Individual Goals
Let’s say your child is really driven. Let’s say they want to be the best baseball player in the entire league, hitting more home runs than anyone else and being the start-short stop of their dreams. That’s all fine and good, but as a parent, you should be warry of hyper-individualism. Take some time on the way to or from practice to discuss the merits of teamwork to your child – especially if they are playing with new players who they might not like initially. It can be an informal discussion about how teamwork is the key to winning, or a more specific example about how selfish individuals don’t usually get as far as they would like in life. Encouraging the merits of teamwork in your child will help them realize that he or she is only as good as the team they are on.
Breaking the Ice is Hard, But Necessary
Getting to know new teammates is an important process for all recreational youth league teams. It’s always best to break the ice and encourage empathy and trust before the selfish instinct kicks in and biases are formed between teammates.