As each new season begins, so does the process of integrating new members into the team. There are several ways to achieve squad unity, and participating in team-building activities at least once a week is a great place to start.
We’ve compiled a list of ideas to foster positive relationships within your team:
Get the team together outside of practice. Host a slumber party, a team dinner, or pool party. Socializing outside the stress of practice will give your team the opportunity to connect with one another in new and refreshing ways.
Fundraise. We call this the two-birds-with-one-stone method. Fundraising is a dreaded but necessary evil for most teams. But, working together, your team can find new and fun ways to bring in the big bucks. Make fundraising a group effort and you promote team unity and raise money at the same time!
Reach out to your community. Through community service activities, team members can bond over shared passions while rocking the causes they care about. Local charity walks, soup kitchens, hospitals, and nonprofits often welcome the presence of cheerleaders at their events.
Host a themed practice. This works best right after tryouts, when excitement about the upcoming season is at its peak. Choose a fun but appropriate theme (we love decades, superheroes and Disney) and ask that the team dress accordingly (keeping safe stunting in mind). The silly outfits serve as conversation pieces that can help break the ice for new teammates. Make sure to snap a few pictures!
Host “positive circles” before or after practices. Ask each team member to share a goal or highlight for that practice. Positive circles create an aspirational practice environment where teammates can cheer each other on.
Play teambuilding games. Games challenge each team member to communicate and work with one another.
Here are some game ideas:
Positive Pages -- Take a full sheet of paper and divide it into four equal boxes. Place the name of each team member in the boxes, using only one name per box. This activity may require several sheets of paper depending on the size of your squad. Combine the sheets into a booklet. Each team member will take turns writing positive notes to each teammate. Once everyone is finished, collect the booklets and divide them by names. Each team member will receive only the page written about him or her.
The Human Knot -- Have your team stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Each person reaches in with their right hand and grabs someone else’s hand. Repeat with the left hand. The team must untie the knot without releasing anyone’s hand. This exercise assists with team communication and collaboration.
Turn Over a New Leaf – First, you’ll need a “magic carpet.” A single piece of tarp or small cloth 4’ x 5’ will typically work. Teammates must turn over the carpet without touching the ground. This activity tests your team’s ability communicate while working in close quarters.
Get to Know Your Teammates -- Write questions on a piece of paper and put them in a basket. Each team member draws a question from the basket and must answer it honestly. Such questions could be “Who do you look up to,” “What’s your dream job,” or even something silly like “If you were an animal, which would you choose and why?”
Circle Laugh -- Lie down in a circle with heads on stomachs and laugh.
Limbo Contest -- You know the rules...:)
Stepping Stones – Create a path of paper plates that lead from one side of the room to the other. Divide into teams and give certain players obstacles such as one leg, blindfolded, etc. Teams must help get each other to the other side without touching the ground.
Beach Volleyball -- Inflate a beach ball and h see who can keep the ball up the longest (freshmen, sophomores, etc.).
Do-It-Yourself Fashion -- Divide into teams. Assemble a variety of supplies for each team. Each team must create an outfit for one teammate in five minutes. Then host a fashion show featuring all of the creations.
Hula Hoop Contests -- See who can hula the longest!
Friends’ Favorites -- Make a list of categories, such as favorite color, TV show, movie star, store, vacation spot, teacher, etc. Have each team member fill it out and collect all lists. Read each list one by one and have everyone guess the identity of the writer.
Embarrassing Moments -- Have each team member write down his/her most embarrassing moment. Collect them and read them one at a time, letting the team guess whose it is.
Mystery Snacks -- Divide into teams. Blindfold one person from each team and challenge them to identify a variety of different snacks. Keep score.
Pillowcase Hop -- Have a contest where players step in a pillowcase and hop in a relay race.
Scavenger Hunt -- Make a list, divide the squad into teams, and set a time limit. The team with the most items at the end of the hunt wins!
Sleeping Bag Races -- Lay in a sleeping bag and wiggle in a shuttle relay race style.
Sleeping Bag Secret -- Spread the sleeping bags on the floor. Choose one person to be “it” and have her go outside. Have each team member get inside someone else’s sleeping bag and cover up except for one exposed body part. Have “it” come inside and guess who’s who..
Deeper Bonding Questions
As you get to know your new teammates better at practice, reserve some time before your season officially starts to get to know each other on a more personal basis. Take turns asking and answering the following questions during squad bonding time. These questions will start discussions that will build bridges between teammates, develop trust, and hopefully, create long-lasting friendships.