"At the end of the season, no one can recall all the scores of their matches, but they do remember the relationships that were created, their little sisters and the lock-in"
Teams are often formed based on the skill and talent level of individual players, but ultimately the team of individuals needs to work together in order to be successful. Interaction among players is important to any team's performance. As coaches, it is important to select activities that are geared toward improving the skills that impact a team's success: building trust, communication, support and respect between athletes.
Three JVA member clubs share the impact team building has had on their teams' performance and culture.
Brett Agne, 15-Trabuco-Head Coach, Premier Academy (Maumee, Ohio)
"People often wonder why we spend time, as a club, participating in team building activities and mini-games. The simple answer is that volleyball is a team sport, thus, "team building" is somewhat crucial. However, there are many more intangible rewards that people often overlook. Besides the fact that the activities themselves are always a blast, it's the on the court benefits that really make it worth it."
Allowing players to have fun in a non-gym environment gives them the opportunity to de-stress and mentally relax before or after facing tough competition. The team building aspect enhances communication, teamwork and spirit while strengthening bonds between teammates.
"This gives our teams the greatest chances to succeed on the court" shares Coach Agne.
For this year's AAU National Championship trip, Premier 15-Trabuco allowed its players to vote on their team building activity.
"This year we gave our girls 4 choices: Escape Room, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Team Scavenger Hunt, and Bowling. The OVERWHELMING majority voted to spend their day at Paddleboard Orlando."
"The girls had a very memorable experience, and are excited to go back next year."
Alexandra Patton, Executive Director and Assistant Coach, Virginia Elite (Alexandria, VA)
In speaking with the Executive Director and Assistant Coach of Virginia Elite, Lexi Patton, it is clear that VA Elite is more than a just a volleyball club, it is a family. A family composed of young athletes ages 12 through 18, and coaches. Virginia Elite makes a point to create this family-like bond from the start of the season by hosting a club-wide lock-in filled with a night full of food, competition, and most importantly, comradery and fun.
At the lock-in, the girls are placed into teams of all ages with other members of the VA Elite family and compete in various activities to earn points to win prizes throughout the night. Activities include:
"Speed Dating" where the younger athletes get a chance to meet with the athletes on the older teams, get to know each other, and ultimately pick their Big Sister for the season
Minute to Win It challenges, like "Cookie Face" where a cookie is placed on your forehead and you must get the cookie to your mouth without the use of your hands
Team relay races, music video creation, complete with props and a live performance, and much more.
Lexi explains that this lock-in helps create the family-like vibe that is so important to Virginia Elite's success. The teams create bonds with not only the individuals on their teams but all members of the VA Elite program. It sets the standard and helps everyone feel that they are a valued part of the organization.
"At the end of the season, no one can recall all the scores of their matches, but they do remember the relationships that were created, their little sisters and the lock-in" shares Lexi.
Sherry Fadool, Executive Director, Triangle Volleyball Club (Morrisville, NC).
One of the ways Triangle Volleyball Club builds strong teams is through service. All of the community services is organized under one umbrella program called "Triangle Serves".
"We have multiple service opportunities here at Triangle. Some are through a partnership with other organizations and others are planned by our staff. I have one Assistant Director who dedicates a large portion of her time to planning and organizing our service programs, especially those directed to individuals with physical and mental differences that need special access to sport" shares Fadool.
Triangle has had a long-standing and successful sitting volleyball program. The club works with adult veterans, which lead to it's first ever all veteran competitive sitting team this past year!
In addition Triangle partners with GiGi's Playhouse, a Down's Syndrome Achievement Center that individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the
people in the community can call home. Recently, Triangle Alum Katie Slay reflected on her experience.
"Several years ago we started a gently competitive club-side service program within our club. The Triangle Cup is a service and support initiative that encourages team bonding through friendly competition between all teams at Triangle Volleyball Club. Teams earn 'cup points' through four categories: Triangle Supports Triangle, Service, Leadership and Donations. Everyone is involved and any team can win" adds Fadool.
As you plan for next season there are many decisions to make, contracts to prepare and review, scheduling, and more. Make sure to spend some quality time reflecting on the life lessons and impactful experiences you are creating for your athletes. Find ways to make lasting impressions they will remember for a lifetime.