In the last blog post I went through the importance of creating a family dynamic on your team. That importance is one of the most crucial components to team success that I've seen in my ten years of coaching. The question remains though...how do you accomplish this? How do you get your team to treat one another like actual family members? Here's my personal guidelines to creating that perfect environment.
1. Treat every single athlete the exact same. Avoid playing favorites, and never act as though you yourself are any better than others on your team (coaches included). When people have an "air" about them that can be mistaken as arrogance; and when people see arrogance they generally distance themselves from the individual acting that way.
2. Be accountable. Whether you are an athlete or a coach accountability is a big deal! From a coach's point of view accountability lets your athletes know you care about them. When an athlete feels like you are working hard for them, generally, they'll return the favor. From an athlete standpoint, accountability is important because it shows you feel everyone is equal and has equal responsibilities. I have met both coaches and athletes that had poor accountability and those individuals lost a great deal of respect due to their lackluster ability keep themselves on the same page as others on the team.
3. Create fair and consistent rules that ALL on the team must follow. You often, coaches don't hold their most talented athletes to the same standard of those around them. The desire to win overcomes the message of fairness when this happens. If you find yourself in this predicament expect the "average" athletes to either rebel or start to lose confidence in themselves. The key to this is to create and implement a fair and attainable set of rules and stick to them no matter what. If you do this correctly, and keep EVERYONE accountable, you might be stunned at who steps up that might have otherwise stayed in the shadows!
4. Plan get togethers. Every year I coach roughly 80 jumpers. That's A LOT! To help them feel connected with not only their teammate but also with me I host a "jumpers party" every year. We meet at a local gymnastics facility and run drills and fool around for an hour to any hour and a half. After that, they are invited back to my house for pizza, video games, video breakdowns, and laughs. Year after year athletes make it a point to talk about that event and how much fun they had. Thankfully I have such a supportive wife to make this kind of event even possible!
5. Make it a rule that athletes on your team are only able to use a cell phone if given permission first. Cell phones are a LARGE distraction to today's generation. Everywhere you look kids are glued to their phones and missing out on the world around them. By making it known that cell phones are not an option, you are forcing your athletes to actually interact with one another. This heightens the chance that they will get to know one another, and by extension hopefully create a bond that becomes very family-like in the process.
6. When at a meet/game/etc. make it known that athletes should be cheering on their teammates as often as possible. On our team, we instruct preach that the homework is the only choice that "trumps" cheering on their team. If they are working on homework, and preparing for the classroom we are happy with that decision. Otherwise, we should see them cheering on their teammates and avoiding things like sitting their their significant other or separating themselves from their team to socialize and/or make inappropriate choices. We have seen some wonderful dynamics between athletes due to simply being a supporter of one another!
7. Last, simply refer to yourselves as a family. That action alone can do wonders at creating the right culture between athletes and coaches!
Now that you've read my suggestions I sincerely hope you can create a culture of athletes willing to run through walls not only for u (the coach) but also for their teammates.