Teammates who regularly spend time praising, acknowledging, and appreciating each other will work better as a unit. And as the sport cliche goes, sometimes the best offense is a good defense. When coaching a team, creating a culture of appreciation is absolutely the best defense against bullying and other issues amongst teammates. The good news is that it doesn't take much work to develop this culture, although in this case, more is better!
"The more coaches can do with regards to relationship building, the stronger a team will be,” says TrueSport Expert Nadia Kyba, a social worker and expert in conflict resolution. “This is just as important as skill-building."
Here, Kyba shares a few simple ways to add appreciation into practices and game days.
Appreciation means acceptance
Often, coaches view teams as a single homogenous organism. But young athletes join teams for different reasons: Some truly love that specific sport, while others are simply looking for a sense of community, a way to have fun with friends, or a way to stay active. "That means that athletes bring with them really different personal values," says Kyba. "Having that diversity is always a great thing for teams, but it's important to foster a sense of belonging by recognizing and appreciating those differences in the team members."
Set the example
It is important for teammates to appreciate each other, but it’s best if that practice starts with you. As a coach, you are the primary driver behind the atmosphere of the team. "If you're able to point out what you appreciate about different players and the unique things that they bring to the team, then they will feel accepted, seen, and acknowledged," says Kyba. "Ultimately, you're going to build trust and foster stronger relationships."