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The Beauty of Teamwork

Date Published: Mar, 21 2014

The odds of any child becoming a professional athlete are pretty slim, but the odds of a child becoming a professional collaborator are pretty high. Teamwork isn't just for the field; it's also a life skill that children will carry with them forever. Teamwork is a huge part of social competency and children who participate in teamwork building activities are better able to interpret their peer's needs and respond in a socially appropriate fashion. Participating in team activities gives children the opportunity to practice negotiation and leadership skills.

The good news is that teamwork happens naturally during group play and parents, teachers and coaches can help children can grow this vital skill set during structured activities. One of the keys to teamwork is successful negotiation. Allowing participants to brainstorm objectives and create goals together is a great way to integrate negotiation into a structured environment. As an added bonus, groups who choose their own goals have a deeper understanding of their goals and a deeper commitment to meeting them.

Fostering Leadership in Each Child

The advantage of an adult led activity is that with proper guidance all children can take turns in leadership roles. Traditionally, coaches identify leaders among their participants and appoint a captain that they feel has the ability to lead the team through example. This narrow approach to leadership is a little out dated in today's fast paced world. Smart coaches know everyone has a strength and each strength is important to team success.

Instead of appointing a permanent captain, select temporary captains who have great strength in the particular skill set you're focusing on. Even the meekest voices will find it easier to speak up when they're allowed to take charge of a subject they feel confident about and helps avoid the appearance of favoritism. Natural athletes may actually benefit the most from this approach because it helps them avoid developing a ‘big fish in a small pond' attitude that may not serve them well when they progress to more competitive divisions.

Letting participants teach each other is another good way to foster teamwork and improve performance. Teaching requires a deep understanding and someone who seems effortless may not be able to express their mechanical understanding right away. By encouraging them to really think about and dissect their actions, they will be able to analyze their own performance better. Teaching encourages your players to connect cognitively with physical activities. The ability to express the ‘how' and ‘why' of their successes will improve a young athlete's overall performance and help to develop leadership and communication skills.

Playing team-building games is another fun way to encourage teamwork. Children of all ages love to pretend. Whether you're on the field or in the classroom, you can take time to play leadership games that will help your kids come together throughout the year. Problem solving scenario games that challenge participants to work together for a solution using limited supplies are good ways to get kids working together. Try asking them to cross a river (played by a 10 foot tarp) or pretend they're stranded and have to make shelter. These are some fun active games that get teams working together outside of their normal roles.

Last of all, remember to let kids be in charge once in a while. Whether that means letting your girl scout troupe choose where to sell cookie or having your soccer team design their own uniforms, children need to feel that when it comes to their time and talent, they have equal input.

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