Getting a team to gel together can be a big task if you’ve got a lot of new players on your team. Below is a list of ten ideas to improve your team’s chemistry early in the season.
- Early Season Tournament/Road Trip – ideally, pick a tournament where you’re out of your home town and parents/players must stay in a hotel. This lets players get to know each other away from the rink setting, and gives parents time to socialize in the evenings. If you’re in a hotel and have time between games, try planning a team “pot-luck” lunch/dinner where players are required to attend as opposed to everyone heading their own direction for meals.
- Ropes Courses – a ropes course will force players to work together as a team to achieve a common goal – just like in the season. It will also force some players to address their fears (especially if you’re doing a high ropes course) and get support from their teammates.
- Team Building Activities – choose a day and location away from the rink and plan group challenges (mental as well as physical). Activities that force players to communicate and interact are excellent in establishing trust among teammates. For some ideas on activities, check out our blog post on Team Building Resources.
- Team Cook Out – this can be done at the rink, or if a parent is kind enough to open their home, at a family’s house. Ideally there would be an activity the players can do (pool, ping pong, swimming, etc.) which will focus them to one area. Avoid allowing video games to be the central focus, as the amount of communication and group interaction is severely lessened.
- Change Locker Room Seats – players love to get into a routine and sit next to their buddies in the locker room. This can be okay as the season progresses, but if you’ve got a team with a lot of new skaters, forcing players to sit in different locations will cause them to talk with and get to know people outside their small clique.
- Paint Balling - not every team will have access to this, but teams that do will find that their players will enjoy the competition and have a great time being together away from the rink. You could also plan for a team cookout after the paint balling event!
- Team Workout – you see this in the NHL quite a bit – players and coaches will do team runs, bike rides, canoeing, etc. Although it may not be quite as much fun as some of the other activities listed above, you’ll be getting the group together and also helping their overall conditioning.
- Mix Lines / D Partners – early in the season, forcing players to play with skaters other than the one or two players they’re used to will not only get players to work together and communicate, but will prepare older players for future tryout camps where they’ll be playing with skaters they’ve never played with before.
- Team Video – have some fun with this one – especially early in the season. Instead of doing game tape review or something expected, have some fun and watch an entertaining video or movie. Maybe even get some pizzas for the players (without telling them). For older groups, The Tournament is a great choice. For younger groups, Miracle may be a better idea.
- Personal Information – before or after a practice, hold a team gathering in the locker room and have players get up and introduce themselves one-by-one. It is also helpful to have 3 or 4 questions they need to answer while it is their turn. Simple questions like the following tend to work well: favorite hockey team, one thing we didn’t know about you, home town, etc.