I've noticed an interesting trend based on my Amazon stats for Team Challenges (definitely not a scientific study, but interesting, nonetheless). It seems that people who are searching for team building books are looking for books suited to *adults*. There are plenty that are geared toward corporate team building in an effort to up productivity. There are lots and lots of companies that offer team building training for corporate
Is this because kids have the opportunity to experience 'team' more than adults? They can easily play soccer, baseball, football or basketball with a group of other kids if they are so inclined. Interestingly, while the perception may be that kids are learning teamwork, these sports often leave much to be desired as far as teaching these skills. Certainly, this depends upon the coach and community, but just because a child is playing a team sport does not mean that s/he is gaining team building skills or learning to cooperate or collaborate.
Youth coaches with a focus solely on winning the game can sabotage the sense of 'team' as they utilize star players in lieu of allowing everyone to play. Novice teams may spend more time on learning the basics of the game than on teamwork. Some teams will spend hours and hours on developing a certain physical skill while completely ignoring the need for kids to learn to work successfully together. Kids need to learn basic skills and rules, but if they are part of a team, they will need the opportunity to learn how to work and communicate with each of the other players, too.
Successful teamwork requires clear communication skills, a trust that teammates are working toward a common goal and a willingness to cooperate to achieve those goals. A successful team in my opinion does not have a star player. A successful team is made up of people with a variety of different skills who can contribute to the success of the whole, whether it's on the football field or in the corporate boardroom. I really question whether or not kids' sports programs provide team building skills for kids. But then again, maybe that's why there are so many team building programs available for the grown up set!
Coaches, I encourage you to set aside ten minutes of each practice session to work specifically on teamwork and cooperation skills with your team. The challenges listed in the sidebar will get you started. And please, let me know how it goes!