My oldest daughter played volleyball, and her team would huddle after every point, win or lose. It looked like a very positive thing, girls huddled up hugging each other. Sometimes it wasn’t though. A player in the huddle might assign blame for a lost point, demoralizing the group. Since the coach is not part of the team huddle, the team culture would reveal itself in these moments, good or bad. While the coach can’t control what happens in the huddle, it’s an extension of the team culture that was created during practices. It’s a little like baking bread; you get all the right ingredients at the right temperature. If you do all the right things and create the right environment, the bread rises on its own.
One my daughter’s teammates was invited to attend a national training camp. The coach told the players to kick the ball around in small groups before practice started. She approached a group and asked if she could join. A girl asked if she had been to this camp before.
“No, this is my first time,” she replied.
“This group is only for girls who have been to camp multiple times.”
The coach may not have realized what just happened, but this type of experience will make girls devalue themselves and lose their confidence. It’s not the kind of chemistry that will promote teamwork. While a coach may not be aware of every conversation that happens, creating a team atmosphere of inclusiveness starts at the top. A coach needs to communicate what is important to him or her, and the team will follow this lead.
It’s the coach’s job to teach equal value of all players in their organization.
It’s the coach’s job to teach equal value of all players. Something as small as forming small groups can promote cliques which is another chapter. Coaches can combat exclusion by counting off or assigning the groups during practices.
The coach should also be cognizant of who is recognized whether it’s to demonstrate a particular skill or be the team captain. It’s really important to rotate as evenly as possible so as not signal favoritism.
Building Team Chemistry
I like to create a culture of team building by setting up traditions that help to institutionalize it. It starts by making sure our freshman feel an equal part of the team. It starts by assigning upper classmen to freshman in a Big Sister, Little Sister program. They help the freshmen buy their books and take them to their classes the first week of school, but also establish a bond even before the freshman arrive to college.
The rest of the chapter will be published in How To Coach Girls coming out March of 2018.