All teams have been there- it’s halftime and your team is down against a big-time opponent. It seems impossible to win as you head into the locker room. This is when a team’s morale is put to the test. Teams that are able to pull together as one and find that extra burst of team spirit can overcome trials better than teams who do not get along and are motivated only by winning. Coming together as a team is not just something that happens in high-pressure moments. It’s something that is learned throughout the season. Teaching players to work together and improving team morale throughout the season is the best way build a team that supports each other when the game gets tough.
Recognize the Little Victories
Every team wants to win the championship, however, not every team will. For some teams, this realization is enough to break up their team spirit and put them in a self-defeating spiral that ruins the entire season. To avoid crashing and burning at the first sign of a game losing streak, encourage your team to set reasonable and attainable goals they can work on throughout the season. Whether it’s to complete a certain number of drills in practice, to win a certain number of games or bring home a championship, teams with goals will come together with a united purpose to reach that goal, thus improving team spirit.
Set reachable goals for your team and encourage players to set individual goals for themselves. Evaluate the areas of strength and weakness on your team and set your goals accordingly. When a new goal is reached, celebrate those little victories as a team. Present individual players with a special token of recognition for reaching their personal goal. Create a special sense of unity by rewarding the team with branded team gear that reminds them of the goals they have reached and the goals they are still working to achieve.
Learn from Mistakes as a Team
One of the easiest ways to destroy a player’s morale is blaming a loss directly on him or her. While no team wants to lose the big game, it’s important to remind players that even if they mess up, their teammates and coach have their back and will do whatever it takes to overcome the mistake. During team meetings, encourage players to share positive criticism with each other. Facilitate open discussion about the mistakes made, but do not allow players to shirk blame and point fingers at an individual. Taking responsibility for a game loss as team will help players to identify mistakes that are being made on and off the field. With that knowledge, they can pull together to overcome mistakes as a team.
Most Valuable Players
Many teams choose to recognize a “Most Valuable Player” after winning a championship game. Typically, the player receives the award for their outstanding individual performance, such as making a game-winning shot. Rewarding players for their individual contributions to the team is an important motivator. But, just as it is important not to individualize mistakes, it is equally important not to highlight only a single player’s contributions to the team. Rather than having only one individual achievement award to give at the end of a season, consider a few others that might help spread recognition to other contributing members of the team. Other individual awards might include:
- Most Improved Player
- Team Leadership Award
- Most Team Spirit
- Highest GPA (for student athletes)
- Best Sportsmanship
- Most Coachable
Win as a Team
Team building isn’t just about what goes on at practice and playing games. It’s also about what is going on off the field. Players who are friends off the field will work better together on the field. Fostering team spirit means fostering friendships. Help players get to know one another and come to genuinely care about each other. That mutual respect will manifest itself on the playing field as players begin to trust each other and their coaching staff.
Winning is a collective effort. As players come together as friends and teammates, they learn how to capitalize on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. When each player feels like a valuable part of the team, team spirit rises and winning no longer seems impossible. Players join forces and become champions.