Monday, July 28, 2008

Bond-building through field trips and guest lectures

It's always interesting to see what teams are doing -- either directly or indirectly -- to help foster a sense of family and encourage a bond between their players.

The most recent issue of Sporting News lists several examples of what various NFL teams are doing (or have done) to bring the players together, from "Soul Train" lines to visiting an Army base, to skeet-shooting and ping-pong and bowling, to going to a waterpark.

I remember reading about how the Celtics came together during a trip to Rome last October as they visited historic sites like the Coliseum to riding around the city on rented mopeds. In the words of Ray Allen:

"You have to always use this as a foundation, a building block. We need to remember how we build this team and how we started it. We have to all remember the bond that we have from being in Rome. Remember Rome."

Here's what Kevin Garnett said at the time:

"We're trying to create continuity and cohesiveness here. We're trying to form some chemistry. We've been walking around, just being together, not force-fed. Usually, when you have situations like this, it comes off commercial, but this has been cool. It's just happened. My highlight of the trip is how well we've already jelled and connected early. You can't teach guys naturally bonding."

Great quote from KG. Chemistry, cohesiveness, connection: The three C's of team-building.

As I've posted about here before, our first season in Golden State, we opened training camp at a beautiful resort in Hawaii. The experience helped to bring the guys together and set the tone for the season.

Pete Babcock, the GM in ATL when I was an assistant with the Hawks, was the best I've been around as far as setting up team "field trips." During several road trips, he'd set up various educational outings.

I always liked taking the guys to movies when we're on the road, but moving forward I plan on trying out more active outings like paint ball, wiffle ball games, miniature golf, etc.

But it doesn't have to be going out, i.e., a field trip. Sometimes, bringing in a speaker to visit with the team right there at practice is a good way to focus the team.

In Golden State, we brought in former Navy SEAL Richard Machowicz, author of the book "The Warrior Within" to talk to the players. Bobby Knight also spoke to the team.

With the Kings, Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the team before a game.

Just as a teacher or professor takes his class out to visit with executives or brings in "guest lecturers" to the classroom, coaches can tap into a guest's unique experience or knowledge while breaking up the daily grind. It helps to engage the players, stimulates them mentally, and provides a different voice or point of view.