When it’s halftime and your team is down against a big-time opponent, sometimes teaching X's and O's won’t make much difference. Teams that are able to pull together as one and find that extra burst of team spirit can overcome trials better than teams who don’t get along and are motivated only by winning. Improving team morale starts with the coach.
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Teach Collective Responsibility
One of the easiest ways to destroy a player’s morale is blaming a loss directly on him. Teaching collective responsibility helps players know that, even if they mess up during a game, their teammates and coach have their back and will do whatever it takes to overcome the mistake. Likewise, a win is a collective effort. Even if a player hits a game-winning shot, it was the effort of the entire team that got the team in a position to win. Teaching collective responsibility helps improve team spirit by letting players know they’re not alone and that, no matter what, they always have someone to pick them up if they get knocked down.
Plan Team Building Activities
Team building isn’t just about practice, running drills and playing games. Get your team out of the gym and go do some activities that have nothing to do with the sport you’re playing. Have a team outing to an amusement park or have everyone go to the movies together. Players who are friends off the court will work better together on the court. Help players get to know one another and come to genuinely care about each other. That mutual respect will manifest itself on the playing field as players begin to trust each other—and you.
Set Reachable Team Goals
Being part of a team means working together to accomplish goals. Whether it’s to complete a certain number of drills in practice, to win a certain number of games or bring home a championship, teams with goals will come together with a united purpose to reach that goal, thus improving team spirit. Set reachable goals for your team. If it lacks the skill to go undefeated, don’t set that kind of goal for it. Evaluate the areas of strength and weakness on your team and set your goals accordingly. Help players reach for their dreams and push themselves while at the same time helping them be realistic about goals.
If sports becomes a chore for players, it will be hard to keep their morale up. Make sure you incorporate a little bit of fun and humor into your practices and interaction with your players. There is a time for work and a time for play, so set aside a little bit of play time to help your players relax and take some of the pressure off. Play a game of beach ball volleyball after practice, or surprise them with ice cream. Tell jokes and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.