Teens can be self-absorbed and lost in their own worlds. When you are working with a teen sports team or a youth group, however, teamwork is essential to success. If one teen on the basketball team is always hogging the ball, for example, it shows he doesn't trust his teammates to make baskets as well, causing dissension and ultimately resulting in losing games. Engaging these teens in team building exercises can help them better understand each other and the importance of teamwork.
Start off a team building session with ice breakers that will allow everyone to get to know each other better. Getting acquainted with teammates or classmates can help foster camaraderie and a willingness to work together. For one ice breaker, have the team form groups based on a similarity. You could say, "form a group with people who have the same birthday month as you." Challenge the teens by telling them they have 30 seconds to get it done. Instruct the kids to get into birth date order. You could also have them form groups by favorite color, eye color, hair color and favorite subject in school. For another ice breaker, walk around to each teen and let him grab as much candy as he wants in one hand. Once everyone has candy, tell the teens that for each piece of candy they took, they must tell the group something interesting about themselves.
Strategy Team Building Activities
Challenge the team with team building activities that require brainstorming and strategy. For one activity, known as "Magic Carpet," divide the teens up into two groups and give them each a sheet or a tarp large enough for everyone in the group to stand on. Tell them it is a magic carpet transporting them to some faraway land. However, it is taking them in the wrong direction, and needs to be flipped over so it will fly in the right direction. The teens must figure out how to flip it over without anyone getting off the magic carpets. Let the teens try a number of different strategies. They may find the best way is for both groups to work together, putting everyone on one tarp, turning it over and doing the same to the other. For another activity, use rope or cones to mark off a "river." Give the teens enough squares of cardboard for half the group. The team must all cross the river together using only the cardboard squares, and everyone must be on the river before anyone can jump off on the other side.
Decision Making Activities
Decision making team builders help teens determine how to make decisions together based on each person's strengths, and how to determine a leader. For one activity, give the kids a list of 30 people, each with a different occupation, skill and a mix of adults and kids. Tell them that Earth will be destroyed in a few days and NASA has assigned the group to choose 10 people to take with them to a new planet. As a group, the teens must agree upon the 10 most important people from the list of 30 to go. You can divide the teens into two groups for this activity. They must then present their decision and discuss how they decided, and what conflicts came up. For another activity, divide the group into teams of three or four and give each a stack of plain white paper and masking tape. The teams must build the tallest tower possible before the others, and it must be able to support a cooked egg.
Trust is an important component of teamwork, as teens must learn to trust each other in their assigned roles to work towards a common goal. For one activity, put the teens into pairs. One is blindfolded. Use small plastic hoops to represent mines in a designated area. The seeing partners stands on the opposite side of the field and must direct his partner across the mine field safely. Everyone does it at the same time, making it hard to hear. Let the partners come up with a form of communication that their partner must listen out for ahead of time. The point is to see how effective their chosen forms of communication worked. For another trust activity, give the whole group an un-assembled tent. Tell them they are in Antarctica and barely survived a snowstorm. They now must quickly put together the tent for survival. The team leader has frost bitten hands and cannot help, half the team has been blinded by snow and the other half have lost their voices, yet they must work together, listen to their leader and trust each other to put the tent together.