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Team culture is quite the buzzword these days, but it’s an undeniable key to success that strength coaches are very influential over. Athletes spend a lot of time with us in the weight room, in some cases we see them more than anyone else on the staff. The relationship between strength coach and athlete is certainly important, but who says it always have to be about sets, reps and exercises only?
One of the most impactful things we can do as strength coaches is to connect with our athletes in ways that go beyond the traditional “job title” responsibilities. And, if we can do that in a way that builds a bond AND improves their performance, it’s a win-win. Below are three unconventional ways you can use non-lifting activities to build a relationship with your athletes, improve team bonding, and even potentially increase performance levels.
Reflexive Performance Reset (RPR)
If you haven’t experienced RPR for yourself, I’d highly recommend it! In short, RPR is a series of “wake-up” drills that are self-administered with the goal of switching your body from survival mode into performance mode.
This section of the RPR website sums it up perfectly:
“Your body has two priorities: to breathe and to move. To perform at our best, we need to do both properly. In a world of constant stress, our bodies find a way to meet those priorities by creating harmful compensation patterns…. Using the RPR® wake up drills™, you can shift your own body out of these patterns and reduce pain, increase flexibility and help your body become more resilient to injury.”
Bottom line FAQ that everyone wants to know: Does it work? Yes. It does. The who, what, when, where, why and how are case-by-case situations, but it flat out works.
I’ve personally had a great experience with RPR on myself and with every athlete I work with, from youth to pros. We’ve gotten people out of pain, long-term. We’ve helped people regain or achieve new levels of mobility. We’ve seen athletes use it to develop better self-diagnostic awareness, which is a huge benefit. RPR truly is the real deal. Here are some easy ways you can get your team involved.
RPR is kind of quirky. It looks funny. It doesn’t feel that great real-time. But the results speak for themselves. And it’s a great team-building idea because it’s awesome for groups, serves a purpose and will definitely give your team something to talk about.
Attending Another Sporting Event or Workout Setting
Another activity that is extremely powerful for team bonding is to attend a sports event outside of their chosen sport. Or even a training session in another setting, or for another team. Most athletes flat out love sports, competing and another related to those things. Allowing them to see elements of their sport through a different lens is empowering for them and can also be extremely motivational.
One of my former strength coaches took us on an annual weekend trip to a nearby military base, where my basketball teammates and I trained like military personnel for a day. It opened my eyes to A LOT, but most of all, to what true effort, work ethic and camaraderie is all about. Some of the events that I’ve used in the past include:
Creativity is your friend here. As long as athletes can learn something from it, I think it’s a great idea to expose them to as many different experiences as possible.
Last, but not least, is one of the best investments you can make as a strength coach. For about 60-bucks, you can get yourself a Spikeball kit and have a whole world of team-building at your fingertips.
Again, athletes love to compete. It can be a game, video games, chess, karaoke, whatever - an athlete is going to want to win. Enter Spikeball. A 2v2 game played on a circular net with a semi-inflated bouncy ball can give you speed, agility, reaction time, hand-eye coordination… and it’s a great culture-building activity. It’s a no brainer.
The take-away? Find something that works for you and your program and your athletes. If you take your job title of Strength & Conditioning Coach to another level, you’re bound to see improvements within your athletes on and off the field.
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