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Building Team Chemistry off the Court

Every Sunday during the season, Canby (Minnesota) girls basketball coach Jeff Thovson has “film night.”

All his varsity players come to his house and the coaches take turns cooking a meal. The players sit together and eat and have a chance to get to know one another better. Game film is running in the background for the players to watch.

It’s all about his players building chemistry with one another. It’s a valuable tool in trying to help make his team successful.

“I think the kids even knowing each other somewhere other than practice or in a game is important,” the first-year head coach said. “We’ve got 15 varsity players, not all of them hang out outside of the gym.”

Do you have to have chemistry off the court in order to maximize your team’s chemistry during a game?

“I don’t know if they need to hang out all the time necessarily, but I do think that off-court chemistry, doing things outside of the gym, we as a staff believe that’s a big deal,” Thovson said. “When these kids can hang out together outside of the gym, whether it’s just having a conversation or whatnot, it shows that, 'I do care about you other than just basketball.'”

Thovson also uses meal time on game days as good team bonding experiences. When Canby has a home game, the girls meet at a player’s house for a pregame meal. On the road, one varsity player’s family is in charge of feeding the team.

“That gets everyone involved,” said Thovson, who was the varsity assistant coach for eight years prior to taking over the head coaching position.

At the beginning of the season, Thovson had his players come up with a team slogan, something the team can rally behind all year. The girls chose the phrase: “Move the mountain.”

“Your faith can move a mountain and your doubt can create one,” Thovson said. “That’s the slogan the team came up with. That’s something they can all grasp to and kind of find that bond together.” 

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Thovson wants his players to feel like they are part of a close-knit family. The girls will go through a lot together during a season, and it’s important they can share special memories that will last them a lifetime.

“High school basketball is four months, and they have to care about each other,” Thovson said. “We have a good group of kids that does that.”

Thovson also wants his girls to realize that the coaches and everyone associated with the program care about their success on and off the court.

“Outside the gym, they have to know you personally care — how they’re doing, how school’s going, things like that,” Thovson said. “If they don’t feel like you care about them off the floor, I don’t know if they buy in and will give that 110 percent to the team.” 

During a busy week in the middle of the season, Canby had games on a Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Thovson ran his girls through a light practice on Wednesday after back-to-back games. On Friday, he told the players they were going to do some conditioning work and split them into four groups.

“We let them play dodgeball and the coaches got involved,” Thovson said. “It was finals week for them on that Thursday, so they needed a mental break from everything, from the grind. We just let them have fun. The kids enjoyed it, they were surprised. I think a mental break is real big.”

Thovson knows playing a little dodgeball can only help his players’ chemistry with one another. It’s a win-win for players and coaches. 

From GameChanger and Greg Bates.

Basketball, Basketball Player Development