Team building is a big deal in sports, with countless sport psychology studies supporting the efforts coaches make to strengthen team chemistry and player relations. Additionally, student athletes might be surprised to learn that they may have an even greater hand in team development, making it worth their while to consider taking proactive team building steps. One unique way team members can dramatically improve the welfare of the team is to consider having “players only” team meetings periodically throughout the season.
Why players only meetings don’t occur
Probably the biggest reasons why some teams don’t do players only meetings has to do with not fully understanding their value, worries that the coach might not like it, and confusion about what players will lead the meeting. It’s understandable that athletes struggle with these concerns, as all three are legitimate issues.
For most kids, it’s hard to see how a meeting they hold could be more valuable than anything the coaching staff could put together. It also makes sense that there are sometimes concerns about whether the coach would want kids having a players only meeting, and the truth is there probably are a select few coaches who might feel threatened not being a part of a team meeting. While those issues are valid, my experience has shown me that the biggest reason players only meetings don’t occur has to do with the diffusion of responsibility relating to who specifically will organize the meeting? This is a great starting point for adults to talk to kids, and empower them to not always wait for the coach (or others) to provide the answers to their team issues and problems.
Advantages of players only meetings
I like to look at player-only team meetings in the same way one might add hot peppers to a pot of chili — in small dose they make a great dish, but if you go overboard it can lead to even bigger problems. When players create these kinds of meetings they should be intermittent, to the point, and agenda driven. Ideally, all players are involved in the meeting, and all players should have a say when it comes to generating solutions to the issues and problems identified by the team.
When all team members are on board and feel their opinions are welcomed and valued, many great things can occur. First, players will experience a greater degree of trust among team members. As players trust one another more, focus and motivation improve, and resiliency becomes even stronger because players work even harder to have one another’s back. These meetings also allow for cathartic expression, getting problems out in the open, and diversity of opinion regarding team philosophies — all generally really great team components.
What to cover in these meetings
While each team will have their own unique issues and concerns to discuss, there are some basic, general ideas to consider when developing a players only meeting.
- If you are unsure, check with the coach. In most cases players can create meetings on their own, but some players might feel more secure running the idea past the coach to make sure there aren’t any issues being overlooked.
- Make sure all players are there. It is important that the team buy in to the idea of a players only meeting, and that they are see the value of such a meeting. By only inviting some team members there is greater risk for small talk and hearsay, leading to bigger future problems.
- Create a warm climate for sharing ideas. All team members, including the reserves, should feel on equal footing when it comes to sharing ideas about how to strengthen the team. Additionally, the team is encouraged to fully listen to what is being said, record important notes, and eventually transition to a problem-solving stage. For sensitive issues, an anonymous comments mechanism might need to be considered.
- Keep it brief and to the point. Nothing is worse than attending a meeting that goes on and on forever. With that said, it is important for these meetings to have an agenda and to move along at an appropriate pace in order to maximize the benefits of this team building experience.
Personally, I love it when kids put together their own players only meetings, as it provides a great opportunity to develop many invaluable leadership and life skills. It’s never too early to learn how to communicate effectively, problem-solve, invite diverse opinions (and respect them), and galvanize resiliency by working through tough situations. The reality is that sports, like life, won’t always have an adult or problem-solver available, making it that much more important for kids to learn the basics of being a proactive leader.
What do you think of players-only meetings? Can they be effective, and if so, what do you think should considered in order to get the team’s best efforts during these meetings?