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Team Identity

by Ali Lenon

Why have some teams (in both college and club) been around for years while others fade in and out of existence, emerging with new names and members every year? What seems to be true is that teams with strong identities have more fun, are more dedicated, stick around longer and play better. The teams that don’t will fight, argue and fade away. What do you think about as a leader and team member of a team struggling to exist? What does it take to build a strong team identity. What are the team building things that you can control and what is out of your control? 

Finding people who like to play together, who want to put in the time it takes to run and be a part of a team, and who are equally obsessed with a sport that is still on the fringes of popular athletics, is the first and probably the most important element of starting a team. While it takes a critical mass of these efforts and emotions from people, we have to realize that as individuals these element are mostly out of our control. If they are not there then it may not be worth spending time trying to wrangle them together. If you have these elements, then the following are some things that you can control as a decision maker. 

Be Inclusive: 
Even if you have a strong returning team it is important to be inclusive, especially in the preseason. Make an effort to make new members feel welcome, show them that it has the potential to be their team as well. If you treat tryouts like a hazing to get into an exclusive club, in a couple years you will not have a team. Small things like learning names and greeting people during tryouts goes a long way to making people stick around. 

Be Visible: 
One amazing thing about a team is that you have twenty members at your disposal that you can use to make a statement. The opportunity to design something for that many people to wear or do all at the same time does not come along in everyday life. If you want everyone wearing bright green sweatshirts with a giant panther wrestling a boa constrictor printed on the back… make it happen. If you want to find a company that will sew dragon wings onto the shoulders of all your jerseys and print them like they have scales, do it. Even if you don’t go over the top, team gear makes you visible and interesting. Especially on college campuses your uniforms and identity will generate excitement and recruit new players. Take advantage of the opportunity, do something different, do something fun and remember that people will associate your team with your colors, logo and style. 

Have a United Front: 
Strong teams have strong leadership. If you have a group of captains, or a core of decision makers, it is important that your leadership at least seem like they are making decisions together. Even if they fight and bicker during meetings, when they present to the team put up a united front. If you have an issue with a co-captain don’t interrupt them as they run a drill and tell them what you think they are doing wrong. Wait for an appropriate time to bring it up and address the issue. This may seem like a straightforward thing but I can’t count the times in college where captains disagreeing in front of players has brought team moral way down. Being together as captains boosts team confidence and confident teams play better. 

Trial By Fire: 
People bond and build trust by going through things together. Sign up for some fun tournaments where you can be easy going and then make sure you sign up for tournaments where there will be teams that challenge you. Fly to tournaments if you have to but also go to some that take a long drive. Some of my favorite team moments have happened in a van driving ten hours to California for tournaments. Somewhere around southern Oregon there is a tipping point. Crazy things start happening and you have to become closer. 

Ride the Ups and Downs: 
Realize that high performing groups take time to form. Having realistic expectations of your team is important for its growth. There is a progression that any group which is building will go through. There is a forming period where everyone is figuring out what it is like to be a part of the group. There is usually a rough period where people fight and disagree (this stage is as important as any of the others because you work out some of you most important values during the storm). Sometimes the rough period breaks groups apart but the ones that emerge are stronger. Hopefully you then reach a stage where everyone is performing well and together. Just knowing that groups go through ups and downs can help set good goals and expectations for your team. 

Building a team can be hard. Knowing what you can and can’t control make it easier as a leader. Doing it with friends and like-minded people can make it really fun. I hope this advice helps and that next year there are more strong teams out there than the last. 

huddle issue032

Thu March 31st, 2011

Us vs. Them
by Tully Beatty

Find Your Spirit Animal
by Tyler Kinley

by John Korber

Nurture What You Like, Overcome What You Don't
by Peri Kurshan

Team Identity
by Ali Lenon

Self-Sustaining Team Culture
by Matt Mackey

Key Team Culture Moments
by John Sandahl

Work Together
by Charlie Reznikoff

It Will Change Every Season
by Miranda Roth




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