Coaches and swimmers at any level knows that team building activities are essential to developing a positive team culture. However, as seen recently with Boston College and Texas A&M, some of these “team building” exercises cross the line into hazing.
An effective and positive team building activity is one in which everyone participates and no one is put in danger, humiliated, or asked to do something illegal. The idea is to bring your team together to work more cohesively.
We’ve compiled a list of positive team building activities for high school, club, and college teams that can be easily implemented by both coaches and athletes. We’ve tried to focus on activities that your team will actually enjoy (no human knots here). If your team has any specific activities or traditions that you do, please share in the comments below.
Support your fellow student-athletes at their competitions
- Whether it be volleyball, basketball, football, gymnastics, wrestling, etc. going to support other student-athletes is an easy and convenient activity to do as a team that’s still on campus or in the community, but away from the pool. Making your program more visible doesn’t hurt either, and maybe they’ll return the favor.
Organize a team retreat
- This can be coach-led and/or athlete-led. Team retreats offer an opportunity to get off campus and away from distractions at school to dedicate time to team bonding. This is a good way to learn about your teammates’ strengths.
Find community service events to participate in
- Organizing and participating in community service events can be a way to help develop positive team culture, as well as get the team more exposure in the community. Again, getting the team outside of their normal routines and comfort zones can great new bonds.
- Although these can be pricey and may not be available everywhere, escape rooms require groups to work together, communicate, and problem-solve. Another bonus about it is it can be made into a competition – which group can finish the fastest?
Campus scavenger hunt
- This is more so for college teams, but organize a scavenger hunt around campus for new team members. This activity is good for two reasons – there’s a competition aspect to it, as well as it helps new team members orient themselves to a new place. Another layer could be adding activities to each location, making it more like an “Amazing Race”.
- Seasonal specific activities could be anything like pumpkin carving, haunted houses, secret Santa/white elephant, or a potluck Thanksgiving. These can be done on or off campus, often at very little cost, and offer opportunities for new activities throughout the year.
Participate in an open water race or play water polo
- Doing a local open water race or playing water polo may be a new experience for some team members, giving athletes the opportunity to get out of their comfort zone. Plus, both activities are competitive and enough work that they can be done in place of a practice.
Regular team dinners or brunches
- Finishing a tough week of practice and getting a meal together is a simple, but a good way to build tradition if done regularly. Whether it be eating out or doing a potluck, it’s a convenient way to spend intentional time together as a team each week or month. Food is a great uniter. If you really want to elevate it – make it a cooking class, or have everyone work together to make the meal (rather than coaches or team parents taking the load).
Two truths & a lie introductions
- It is kind of cheesy and can definitely be over-done, but two truths & a lie is a classic way to do introductions at least at the beginning of the year. It can be a fun way to learn random facts about each other you wouldn’t know otherwise.
- Set a time limit and have everyone come up with a topic to present. It could be anything from celebrity lookalikes to rating your team members as drivers. If it’s a large number of people, splitting into groups to create PowerPoints is always an option too.
- Have your team members split into teams and make a best TikTok competition. Same as above – set a time limit and find someone to act as the judge (could be your coach, their family members, etc.) This activity costs $0 and can be done from quite literally anywhere.