How to Team Build While Distancing

  • May 19, 2020

Tips and tricks for team building with your athletes:

Sports offer a variety of opportunities to develop our physical abilities, improve our mental well-being and to connect with our communities. Whether you participate or facilitate in grassroots, recreational or high-performance sport, having a strong bond with teammates and staff is a feeling like no other.

But why is team cohesion important? Well, for starters, many of the most successful sports teams in history worked as well-oiled machines – take the 90s Bulls for example. Team building is more than everyone “getting along”, it’s understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and making a choice to support each other regardless. Not only can this improve the results on the playing field – but it can build long-lasting friendships and relationships.

Some tips for remote team building:

Ask your athletes what they value in team cohesion. It’s important to understand as coaches that each of your athletes may have different perspectives on what team cohesion looks like. While using virtual video platforms such as, start by asking questions such as “what does team cohesions mean/look like to you?”

After your athletes/coaching staff have shared their ideas, let them know what your idea of team cohesion is. This displays an open dialogue from all members of the team and helps to set the standard that all ideas are valid and welcomed.

Start or review goal setting. Have your athletes write down one personal goal and one team goal. This will not only give you a sense of how competitive the team goal is for the season but, it will also show what your athlete’s goals are. If many of them are technical skill-based, that can help when you begin your practice planning.

Put together a player code of conduct with your team. Allowing players and coaching staff to have input shows that their opinions are valued. When players truly believe and are a part of the player code of conduct, it creates a sense of ownership that will help them to hold themselves and their teammates accountable.

Incorporate some fun activities into your teams’ virtual meetings:

  • Pictionary – This can be played over webcams, either keeping points individually or having coaches/athletes team up in pairs/groups. Utilize a word generator to generate topics and have individuals draw on paper or use a whiteboard feature (if available) on your platform.
  • Two Truths and a Lie – Each team member comes up with two truths and one lie about themselves and shares with the group. This is a great way for coaches and players to learn more about one another off of the playing field.
  • Brainstorm – Have your team come up with 10 signs of a good team player. This can be later be used as a reference in a player-code-of-conduct and even adapted for parents.

Team building activities for when we return to sport

When sports eventually do come in to play, a great way to have your athletes bond is through activities. James Leath – the founder of Unleash the Athlete, is a mental performance coach who puts a lot of focus on team chemistry. Here are some exercises from James’ “Interrupt” Wake up the Athlete and Set the Mood to try when sports resume:

  1. Flip the Tarp – a group of athletes stand on the tarp with the goal to flip it over without touching the floor or using furniture. (If you have a large team, let one group go at a time OR, bring a second tarp to allow for a safe amount of athletes playing at one time)
  2. Linked – Have athletes sit on the floor back-to-back with a partner and link arms at their sides. The goal is to stand up while staying linked. If groups of two are too easy, increase the number. This can be done with multiple people.
  3. Two-Handed Ro Sham Bo – This is basically Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament style. Have athletes pair up with one another. Have the pairs play one round of rock-paper-scissors. Whoever wins will circulate the room to find a new competitor. The athlete who lost now becomes the cheerleader for the winner – hyping them up and cheering them on as they continue to compete. This continues until there is one winner throughout the whole group with everyone cheering them on.
  4. Cone Game – Have your athlete’s pair up in two’s. Each pair will face each other roughly an arm’s length distance apart. Place a cone between them. The coach will prepare athletes to be saying “ready” and then proceed to call out various body parts for athletes to follow along and touch – head, toes, ears, shoulders, etc. Once the coach yells “cone” athletes compete against their partner to reach and grab the cone first. You can have athletes shift down the line to face new partners.