Good team chemistry is vital to success. It doesn’t matter the level of individual talent you have; if a squad can’t communicate with or depend on one another, success will be hard to come by.
There are countless methods of encouraging players to bond and form that chemistry. Any activity that forces teammates to work together, create a plan and accomplish a goal will help strengthen bonds amongst players. Also, situations that allow teammates to learn more about one another on a personal level lead to a tight-knit group that cares about each other on and off the court.
Before the 2018 season, Colorado College’s women’s volleyball team came together to build a tipi. They gathered at a local lodge for a few days of connecting with one another, and this construction project was one of their activities. It allowed the players and coaches to work together and utilize their unique skills to raise the structure. They hauled long poles to the build site, prepared support ropes and hoisted everything into place.
“Every single member of the team was needed,” said volunteer assistant coach Shelley Small of the project. “All the players and coaches are still proud of that accomplishment.”
If there’s nothing in the area requiring construction, you could build a meal together. Palmer Ridge High School (Monument, Colo.) girls volleyball head coach Trevor Sullivan had his varsity, JV and C teams work together in a pancake cook-off. Each athlete was assigned either a food item or utensil to bring, and then they were split into four teams and got cooking. The players utilized their communication and organizational skills to make breakfast, and Sullivan was really encouraged by the teamwork.
“It was amazing to see the freshmen getting guidance from the upperclassmen, and the sense of community it brought was invaluable,” Sullivan said. “I already have requests to do another event like it for the upcoming season.”
Sometimes you don’t need to do anything extra to help bonding occur, it will happen while traveling to a tournament. Some of the best opportunities for players to learn about each other come during long bus rides or nights in a hotel room. There’s plenty of time for teammates to build the rapport, friendships and inside jokes that make a team close. Court time during these road tournaments is important, but a team can grow just as much – if not more – away from the playing facility.
It doesn’t even have to be your own tournament, either. Watching a match together gives teammates another chance to talk. They can discuss the match, what they’d do differently, or just how good the teams are. They can learn more about volleyball from the players on the court, and they can learn how to play as a team by analyzing the game together.
This summer, there are some unique opportunities for teams to watch high-level volleyball together. The United States is hosting Volleyball Nations League matches (women’s: June 4-6 in Lincoln, Neb.; men’s: June 21-23 in Hoffman Estates, Ill., and July 10-14 in Chicago) and an FIVB Volleyball Intercontinental Olympic Qualifier (August 2-4 in Shreveport-Bossier City, La.). If you can’t make it to any of these locations, throw a team watch party and stream a match online at FloVolleyball.tv. It’ll be fun for players to enjoy each other’s company and watch international volleyball.
Shared experiences, cooked meals and public service; these all can bring a team together and eliminate some of the barriers to strong on-court teamwork. If you’re cooking as a team, though, Sullivan does have one additional tip.
“Their focus this year is on a homemade pizza cookoff. Who knew high school kids like to sleep in on the weekends?”