Team-building is a common topic of coaching discussions. It’s something we addressed in the second Volleyball Coaching Wizards book. I often see in coaching discussion threads ideas for team-bonding exercises – or the requests for them. While reading Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker I actually came across an interesting tidbit on the subject.

“And what about forming friendships with coworkers? This is another excellent idea. You can’t rely on HR team-bonding exercises; studies show they’re only effective at building distrust.”

The first two sentences focus on the individual. The author is basically saying you should go out and make friends among your co-workers on a 1-on-1 basis. There are a number of benefits to doing so. It’s something to encourage our players to do, and something we should do ourselves with our peers.

For this discussion, though, I want to focus on the last sentence. That’s where things shift to group exercises meant to bring everyone closer. You can probably think of some you’ve either done or heard about (like the famous one in this book). Sounds like those can actually be counterproductive.

The author has more on the subject in this post from his blog, including links to the resources from which he got that information. Definitely check it out.

Along a similar line, here’s a quote from the book Do Hard Things:

You can’t force cohesion or unity. It doesn’t come from trust falls, gimmicky bonding activities, or forced interaction. It comes from being real. From allowing people to lower their defenses and feel comfortable enough to be who they are. You can’t force it. All you can do is create the space for it to happen.

So be careful before you run your next team-building exercise. Think about how you can facilitate organic bonding rather than forcing it via “mandated fun”.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.