Youth sports often start out fun and tend to grow competitive as children age. Sometimes the focus on athletic skill and physical achievement can overshadow the social-emotional learning taking place on the field or court. Youth development professionals can ensure kids of all ages are developing their team-building skills at every level of play.
Here are four fun team building activities that encourage kids to be good sports:
1. Relay Races:
This simple activity is a quick energizer and can be adapted to any sport. The concept is to have two teams move from point A to point B as fast as possible, and the first team to get all players across the line wins. After the race, have a group conversation about how each team demonstrated good sportsmanship.
Bonus tip: Get creative by incorporating different equipment, such as dribbling a soccer ball with football teams or bouncing a tennis ball with basketball teams.
In a large, open gym or field, lay out various objects such as tennis balls, soccer balls, bats and other sporting equipment. Split the group into pairs with one person in each pair blindfolded. The blindfolded person cannot speak. Have the non-blindfolded partner stand outside the minefield. This person will direct the blindfolded partner through the minefield using verbal directions. If the blindfolded partner steps on a “mine,” he or she needs to start over.
Bonus modification: You can also perform this activity in teams. Split the team into two teams with one person from each team blindfolded. The same guidelines apply, except now the teams will have to work together on coaching and communication tactics to lead their blindfolded team member across the minefield.
3. Blanket Ball:
Communication is key in this game! Two teams are given a blanket and each player holds the edges to spread it out in the form of a “blanket trampoline.” Throw a volleyball (or similar ball) into the middle of one of the blankets, and the team must flip the ball over a net for the opposing team to catch in their blanket and flip back. After the game, have a group conversation to share examples of how each player strengthened their team. Don’t have a net? Improvise and use poles or skipping rope as a makeshift bar that the ball must go over.
4. Winner's Circle:
This team-building activity can take place at the beginning or end of a practice or program activity. Have the participants sit or stand in a circle. Each child says something positive about the teammate on the right, for example: have them acknowledge what they appreciate most about that person from the last game, practice or activity. Also, have each participant say the name of their teammate that they are referencing before they share their positive affirmation. This activity can encourage increased confidence, a boost in self-esteem and a sense of belonging from each participant.