Tori Benavidez is a former softball player at Sam Houston State who is now an associate softball coach for the Bearkats. She obtained her master's degree in sport management. She is a freelance reporter for GameChanger via Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Most coaches will agree, the key component for any team is good chemistry. Ultimately team chemistry comes down to the players, but coaches can help our players become better teammates.Promote Team Bonding Activities
The No. 1 way to build team chemistry is through team bonding activities that take place out of practice. Coaches should promote these activities, especially at the beginning of the season. These activities will help new players assimilate with the existing players while also helping the team as a whole develop trust for one another. If your players trust each other off the field, they will learn to trust each other on the field.
During my senior season, I worked with the other team captains to create a partner program. We matched players with partners who listened and respected each other. From there we built relationships of honesty, truthfulness and accountability. If one partner didn’t do her job, her partner was right there to pick her up and tell her to move on. This created a culture of accountability within the team. We fed off of each other, and that helped us take second in the Southland Conference tournament.
Work with your players to help them set goals for the team. These goals should be measurable and attainable, and they should be relevant to the team. Include a timeline for achieving these goals as well. From here you and your players can create a plan of action for achieving those goals — including rewards if they are met. This process helps give your players a sense of direction: They decide together what they hope to achieve and have a roadmap for how to do so. While you can facilitate this discussion, it’s important for the players to take the lead. The process of setting goals together and then reaching them together will build team unity in a way that coach-defined goals might not be able to.Teach Them to Hold Each Other Accountable
It takes one “bad apple” to ruin the direction you are trying to take your team. One of the best ways to prevent this is by instilling a culture of accountability amongst your players. They are responsible for helping each other. They should know that they can solve many of their own issues, and that the consequences will be worse if a coach has to get involved. Let your players know that if the player holds their teammate accountable then the individual will be punished, but if the coaches have to hold the player accountable then the entire team will be punished.Make Players Into Leaders
Not every player can be the team leader, but every player can take on some leadership roles. When I was playing, each player had different things that she was in charge of. Our captains were our overall leaders, and then we had different players who led our stretching routine, our warm-up routine, our throwing progression, our dugout during games, our defensive pregame, etc. This allowed each player to have a role on the team, feel involved and be motivated to succeed in the area in which they were in charge.