5 Ways to Build Spirit & Comradery Within a Team

As parents, teachers and members of a community, we often find ourselves supporting team sports and activities for our youth. Great outcomes are achievable. Teacher and Master of Coaching, Jay Dowdell, shares some of his top tips for building team spirit and comradery within your teams.

Coaching and/or mentoring students within a team setting is an incredibly rewarding experience. Leading the group to success amplifies this feeling, as you get to join in the joy and feeling of accomplishment that is felt by those you have mentored.
One of the most important aspects in creating success within a team setting is to build a sense of spirit and comradery amongst the group. If the individual members feel like they are part of a “close-knit” group it creates an environment where they will strive that little bit harder to get the most out of themselves. A strong sense of team spirit can also lead to the magical notion of “synergy”, wherein the individuals in the team have an unspoken connection. A great example of this is when two athletes seem to know what the other is going to do on the field without verbally communicating to each other. It’s an extremely powerful tool.
Here are five ways that coaches and/or mentors can foster a strong sense of spirit and comradery within a team:

Make what they are part of something important.

Everyone wants to feel as though what they are doing matters. If what the team is striving for isn’t important then the individuals won’t engage deeply with the process. Not only should the prize of success be made to feel important, but just being part of the team should too.
Instead of treating the team and its goals like any other day at work, make it out to be the most important thing you, and they, are currently engaged in. Every practice should feel like they are preparing for a final. When praising or offering feedback, do so with great intent. Hold pre-season dinners where players are celebrated for being part of the team. Celebrate success at the end of the season in grandiose fashion. These sorts of practices make even the most amateur of teams feel like they are world champions.

Set difficult but attainable goals… and make them work hard for them.

Nothing binds a group together like having to work extremely hard to achieve a worthwhile goal. If the end result of success requires very little effort it doesn’t feel as special, but if the group has to go through “hell and back” and comes out the other side as winners, you will create a bond between the individuals that will go well beyond the playing field.
The goals must be specific, not “wish-washy”. If the goal is to win the premiership, that’s great, but it needs to be broken down into specific parts. Outline the sacrifice each member will have to make to achieve and then get to work.

Create moments where the team can spend time together outside of practice and competition.

Each member of a team has a life outside of that team. That’s important to recognise. A mentor should foster an environment where everyone is accepted not just for what they bring to the playing field, but for who they are.
Organise team mandated social events, have time at the end of training for everyone to chat and hang out, organise team tours where the group stays together for an extended period of time. These sorts of experiences can assist in bringing the group together outside of the competitive environment.

Build culture by setting high standards beyond what might be considered normal.

If individuals are part of a team that sets very high standards, both in a competitive sense and in their general behaviour, this creates a sense of pride from simply being associated with such a strong culture.
This could come from small ways of showing respect, such as cleaning up the equipment at the end of training or shaking hands with referees, teammates and coaches. Larger, “all-in” endeavours such as helping out with the younger team’s training sessions or volunteering to fundraise are excellent ways to foster a strong culture.

Create memorable traditions.

Most people can think back to their “glory years” and fondly remember some type of tradition that has stuck with them, even more so than winning a championship. Things such as pre-match rituals, post-match war-cries and celebrations, weekly training rituals and various rituals that teams have when going on tour are things that we remember from being a part of a strong team. Have a think about what types of traditions would suit the team you mentor. It could be something fun and light-hearted or something more meaningful and serious. It can be different for every age group and type of team.
Members of successful teams, when asked about why their team was successful, invariably stray towards talking about the spirit amongst the group or the culture that was created. Of course, we must be skilled at whatever we are competing in, whether it be sport, music or debating, but the magic ingredient more often than not is team spirit, comradery and culture.