written by Erica Quam
I love team-building. I’m absolutely fascinated by human behavior and group dynamics. (To be honest…I kind of geek out on it.)
One of my favorite things to do as a coach is to plan team retreats. I love everything about them. I think it’s why I love facilitating women’s coaching summits so much. It’s like a team retreat – for coaches.
Here’s a sampling of my favorite go-to ideas to add to your bag of coaching tricks. This list includes activities you can do or discussion you can have. Take this, adapt it and make it your own. I hope that will spark a little inspiration for the season ahead.
In this versatile activity, one person does the talking, the other person does the listening. The listener does not talk, respond, or add anything to the conversation at all. They simply listen and make eye contact. There’s an endless array of things your team can talk about.
If your team is just getting back from a break, here are a few questions you could ask: What was the best thing you did over break? What was the most difficult thing you dealt with? What was one thing that surprised you?
Paired-sharing is great because everyone needs human connection. It’s one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We all like to talk about ourselves. We all like to feel listened to and heard. It can be great for teams that have a couple of big personalities who do all the talking. The introverts never get a chance to speak. This gives them a chance to talk. This is also great for large teams – because having everyone share in a big group just takes too long.
NOTE: You can make this a more safe and comfortable activity for introverts by giving them a little time to think and write a few things down before they talk to their partner.
One of the best things about being on a team is that everyone is unique and brings their own blend of values and experiences with them. Values are an important thing to talk about – especially at the beginning of the year.
The beginning of the season is typically a time when everyone is trying their best to fit in (aka. the forming stage). Get them talking about what makes each person unique. Then, during the next stage of team development (aka. the storming phase) when people begin to assert themselves and try to stand out – everyone will already have insight and remind them why that’s important.
Bring values to life by asking your athletes to bring in an item that is special to them. Maybe it’s something that represents their values or their background. At some point during the retreat you can circle up and have everyone share what they brought and why it’s important to them.
Share your vision for the season as a coach. Invite your athletes to take some time to think about their own. What do they want for themselves this year – in terms of their education, their sport, their social lives, and beyond?
The coaches in my Pre-Season Prep for Coaches course just made their own vision boards for the season. A few of them said they were skeptical at first (just like I was.) Afterwards, they confessed it was more fun than they thought it would be. Having it as an assignment as part of the course gave them permission to take time to dream, cut things out of magazines that they liked, and get a little artsy. Trust me – this can be a whole lot of fun for your team. It’s something they can look at to inspire them all season long.
It’s great to find out why your athletes are on your team. What’s their story? How did they get started in their sport? What do they love about it? What’s challenging about it? What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that’s happened to them?
These questions can help your athletes get re-connected to their purpose and help you (and their teammates) the understand the history of why they are there.
You could turn this into a team game – like two truths and a lie. You could have a more serious discussion about it. Or you could simply have your athletes reflect on these questions and write in their journal. It’s also something you can come back to later in the season – when things get hard.
A team retreat is a great venue to have a discussion about expectations. This sounds so simple, yet it’s so powerful. Most coaches I know do a great job of letting their athletes know what they expect of them. Few coaches I know ever take the opportunity to ask their athletes what they expect of them in return.
This conversation gives coaches an understanding of exactly what their athletes want. Here’s the catch…you don’t have to deliver on all of your team’s expectations. This is where you get to clear the air and find out what’s going on in their heads. Then, it’s your job to set the boundaries and limits. Clear up what you WILL do, what you WON’T do, and why. After all, you’re the boss. If you can have this conversation early on it can save you SO much time and energy down the road.
Finally, have your athletes share their expectations of one another. What does a good teammate look like? What’s okay and what’s not okay in this team culture? You can facilitate this discussion yourself or if your team captains are strong enough leaders to make this conversation “real” then this would be a great task to turn over to them.
Have your athletes set an intention for the season. An intention is different than a goal. When we set a goal, we can work hard towards it. We can break it down into steps. We can use determination, strength, and willpower to achieve it.
An intention is something that we set and then allow to unfold. It’s a totally different energy. You can teach your athletes how to set an intention for big things in their lives as well as very small moments: Who do they want to be? How do they want to feel? What’s the ideal outcome? This begins to teach them that they have some control over who they are and how they show up. Things just don’t happen to us. It can be really empowering!
7. What to let go
When you set an intention, the first things that may come up are things that aren’t aligned with that intention. Think of it like planting a seed. The flowers don’t come up first. The dirt comes up first. Prepare them for this.
Ask your athletes what old habits or limiting beliefs do they need to let go of to make room for these intentions? See if they can relate to this and share any examples of when they’ve observed this phenomenon in their lives. Even if they haven’t…this can be a huge awareness builder to take into the season with them.
I hope you’ve gotten a little inspiration from reading through these ideas. I’d love to hear yours! Share one idea in the comments below. AND…have a great season!
Erica Quam swam for the Indiana University Hoosiers and coached collegiate swimming for 15 years – most recently as the Head Coach at Washington State University. In 2012 she shifted her focus to coaching coaches.
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