Heroes, Heartbreaks and Highlights: Try this at your next practice
By Greg Bach
The quest for team unity can be a real head scratcher for youth sports coaches.
After all, getting a group of kids with diverse personalities, skills and playing experiences to work together – while supporting and caring for each other – can be daunting.
But oh-so important.
When players bond opportunities for growth and success flourish; and when kids feel disconnected or disliked by teammates performances typically fizzle.
“The biggest thing is getting everyone to be invested in each other,” says Jamey Mroz, a corporate mental skills and leadership coach who works with individuals, businesses and athletes on achieving peak performance.
As a former college football player who has worked with several NFL teams – the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and both the New York Giants and Jets – Mroz has both experienced and seen how crucial team unity is for performing at optimal levels on game days.
He recommends volunteer coaches conduct an activity called H3 at the beginning or end of practices to help cultivate that team-centric atmosphere where kids can begin learning about their teammates.
And ultimately playing harder and more passionately because they feel that real connection to them.
“What coaches do is have a couple players from the team speak about either a hero in their life, a heartbreak situation or a highlight,” Mroz says. “So they get to share a part of their life and I think it’s a great way to build the team because players get to know each other and they become invested in each other and want to help and support each other.”
The head coach, and any assistants too, can kick off the activity by sharing their H – hero, heartbreak or highlight – in their life. And then let the team know that in upcoming practices the players will get to share their H, too.
Providing notice gives young athletes a chance to put some genuine thought into what they want to share with the team. And it can be a great conversation igniter with their families as they decide what H they will reveal to their teammates.
Plus, this activity is more fun, and productive, than the approach you may have encountered during your playing days years ago where you stood up in front of the team and introduced yourself. It’s a format that can be stressful, and awkward, not knowing what exactly to share with the group.
“If you’re just saying ‘tell us about yourself’ that is so vague and often really hard for kids,” Mroz says. “But when you are giving them something specific with ‘pick a hero in your life, tell us a hard situation you went through that had some adversity and heartbreak, or tell us something special that happened to you that has been a highlight,’ that is a great way to pull everyone closer by getting to know each other a little better.”
Mroz has seen the power of 3H. “We used to do it on Saturdays at the end of walk throughs or on Sundays before a game,” he says. “It’s a really good way to create that team environment.”
Use it with your team – and watch the bonding and friendships blossom.
And the enjoyment of being part of a team that cares for each other flourish.
For more information on Jamey Mroz, you can connect with him on Facebook @Coachmroz; Twitter @JameyMroz; Instagram @jameymroz; and his website: mrozmission.com
Traci Callahan, professional beach volleyball player and youth coach, on the value of providing honest feedback to young players to forge connections, drive development and deliver rewarding seasons
During these unprecedented times coaches still play an all-important role in their young athletes’ lives. Use these tips from well-known psychologist Dr. Peter Scales to stay connected, involved and help players be ready once seasons resume.
University of Iowa women’s volleyball coach Vicki Brown shares how she used visualization during her days as a youth coach to prepare teens for productive practicing
Volunteer youth coach of several sports on recognizing each young athlete's learning style and treating everyone with that all-important respect