Softball team building activities are hard to find. Being a team sport, and being that each player is so reliant on each other in their play execution, it is almost as important as the ability to execute the skills themselves.
Games in which inhibitions are lessened, or activities for individuals to get to know one another, have fun, and take some risks would be called ice-breakers. As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. This is certainly applicable to successful team building. Start with a bang. Make the activity an attention grabber that leads and motivates the group into the rest of the day’s activities. Begin with a high-energy initiative that immediately captures the attention of the participants. An exciting beginning can serve as a bridge from the current to the next level of involvement and sets the tone for future challenges. Here is one example for a simple icebreaker. It incorporates competition, problem solving and communication.
Title: Bean Bag Shuffle
One stop watch for each team
An open field or gym
Divide your group into two or three teams of 6-8 individuals
Provide each team with one small bean bag (you can buy them in a store or make your own).
Have the teams stand in a circle, any size they choose.
Set the challenge: the goal of this activity is to see how fast you can pass the bean bag from person to person so that everyone in the group has to have completely handled the bean bag and individually passed it on to another team member (in other words, simply “touching” the bean bag does not count as “holding and passing individually”).
Assign a stop watch coach (make sure it is a trust worthy, competent timekeeper) to each group.
On the signal, “ready, set, go,” teams begin to pass the bean bag around the circle as fast as they think they can but still following all of the rules
Establish a winner based on time. Record that time.
Now ask, “Can they do it faster?” Let them try. Continue to record the times for each team.
Can you do it faster still?
Eventually teams will learn that they can move very close together and make an even smaller circle so that it almost looks like a big mob of people. Then, they will learn that they can hand and pass the beanbag much faster, more efficiently, and all in one motion if they change their distance from one another and alter their team’s configuration.
At first, they’ll think that winning is the only goal or that winning is when they simply “beat” another team. Ultimately, you want them to come to see, that what they initially thought was good enough, fast enough and successful enough can actually be made better and faster. It is the same principle we learn in sport. With planning, motivation and ingenuity, they can learn skills and strategies to keep lowering their previous best time and therefore improve overall “team” performance.
That debriefing message can have season-long implications no matter what the age, level or sport you play.
This is the second team-building icebreaker that you can consider using with your team. Remember that these initiatives should simply serve as guides or recipes for you to follow. Feel free to adapt, modify, create and improvise both the rules and the difficulty of the challenge in order to accommodate the qualities of your particular team.
As you will recall from last month’s article, the activity must be age-appropriate as well as level-appropriate. Games that seem too “silly” for your particular athletes or challenges that are too easy to complete will not be met with enthusiasm or positive motivation. You should know your group well enough to construct challenges that are attractive to them, interesting and compelling.
You may want to start the session with a joke related to the situation, or even share a game-related need that this activity addresses. You may begin with a series of short questions that elicit a series of loud group responses or a meaningful team cheer just to get the activity started.
This next icebreaker can serve as an excellent warm-up activity not only for the team building session but also for the cardiovascular system and musculoskeletal structure depending how active and competitive your athletes are.
Title: Human Dragon
An open field or gym, free from obstacles
Divide your team into 4 teams of 6-8 individuals. You can have odd numbers or vary the length of the “dragon” depending on the skill, size and ability of your athletes.
Each team designates the “head” person and the “tail ” section of the Human Dragon
All other team members fill in behind the head of the dragon by holding on to the person in front of them at the waist
At this point, your four dragon teams should form one long line with all team members connected by holding onto each other’s waist in a single-file, one-in-front-of-the-other line
The goal of the activity is to have the head of each dragon attempt to tag the tail of any other dragon team
Only heads of the dragon can do the tagging as all other team members must remain connected (with two hands) to their teammates
Players attempt to avoid having their team’s tail be tagged and skillfully (did I mention, humorously?) attempt to shield their tail from other dragons on the prowl
Each time a tag occurs, the tagging team receives one point and the tail of the team that was tagged becomes the new dragon head, therefore creating a new tail
If one person is a tail for too long, switch the tail and periodic time intervals
The game continues on for a specified time (as competitiveness and interest allows)
If the any of the dragon people in the middle release their grip on the person in front of them, teams are asked to “self-report”, count a point against themselves and switch the tail of the dragon. In other words, releasing your grip results in a loss of one point for your team
Dragons should call out their score every time they gain or lose a point
This game is great for communication, competition, honesty, cooperation and protection of teammates. By moving as a team to “protect” their tail, the team’s success is more likely enhanced.
This is another activity for you to consider when designing your next team building session. In this simple but fun initiative, the following concepts can be emphasized and developed:
Competition between groups
Cooperation within groups
Speed of performance
This challenge is a great small group activity whose difficulty can be altered to achieve desired results. For example, groups can be prodded to “beat the other team(s)” or to “beat their own group’s personal record,” depending on (a) the desire to emphasize either intrinsically motivated standards of excellence or (b) an extrinsically-oriented focus on outcome and result. Decide what’s best for your particular group at this particular point in your training cycle and alter the activity to meet those demands.
Title: The Hula Circle
One hula hoop for each team (if you can’t find hula hoops, any building supply store will have plastic tubing that can be shaped into a circle and secured with duct tape)
Divide your group into the number of teams you desire with 8-15 individuals per team.
Each team is asked to stand in a circle by clasping hands with the person on either side of them. That grip cannot be broken.
Place a hula-hoop on the forearm of the “Team Captain” and have him/her re-grasp the hands of his/her teammate to complete the hand-in-hand closed circle.
On a “ready, set, go” command, teams begin to “pass” the hula-hoop around the circle without breaking the handgrips.
Players bend and twist their bodies through the hoop by climbing through the hoop, ultimately getting it over their head to the other side of their body.
The entire process repeats itself as the hoop travels from teammate to teammate around the circle as fast as possible. Keep in mind the handgrip can never be broken.
If the handgrip is broken the hula-hoop must start back at the beginning again.
How fast can you pass the hoop? Who finished first? Can you do it even faster?
Have players stand with their back toward the center circle and try it again.
There are so many lessons to be gleaned from this fun and exciting initiative. Players will discover that just because their team may be far in the lead at one point in the contest (or behind), a few small errors (or quick recoveries) on anyone’s part can lead to disaster (or can bring them quickly back into the game). The point is that whether you are winning or losing at any given point in the contest, it is no guarantee of final outcome. Truly, anything is possible. Often in sport, teams get the lead and relax. That loss of focus and competitive fire can be costly.
Secondly, players also learn the importance of not only competing against someone else (as in beating the other team) but also learn the real value of competing against their previous best performance (as in “can we lower our team’s best time?”).