Alison and I wrote How To Coach Girls to share her knowledge from coaching for more than two decades when we realized that girls were quitting sports at six times the rate of boys. In fact, 70% of all kids quit organized sports by the age of 13. Why? The number one reason is that it wasn’t fun anymore.
In celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day today, we are sharing a bonus chapter from our How To Coach Girls ebook. We have three bonus chapters that are only in the ebook form; chapters that resulted after we did book tours and found that these were common questions from our audience.
Many thanks to Sidnie Kulik, Alison Foley’s daughter for coming up with most of these ice breaker ideas. A multi-sport athlete herself, Sidnie uses these ice breaker for a STEM and book club for elementary school kids that she runs.
How To Coach Girls by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley
How to Coach Girls provides the most comprehensive guide available to the many issues associated with coaching girls’ teams across the spectrum of sports, from soccer to lacrosse, field hockey to softball. Volunteer parents and experienced coaches alike will find invaluable advice on the process of making a successful team, encouraging girls to stay in sports beyond the middle school years. Twenty-two chapters cover all the major issues, including how to pick captains, the importance of growth mindset, issues around body image and puberty, as well as the intricacies of coaching your own daughter.
Making Connections: Ice Breakers to Build Team Chemistry
Bonus Chapter for How To Coach Girls eBook
It’s always intimidating to join a new team, especially when that team has been together for a long time. When my daughter joined a practice of a high-level soccer team, the coach had each person introduce themselves with their name, where they were from, and with a fun fact. The coach said that everyone needed to know each other’s name in order to communicate with the other players during the practice. So, there was a practical reason for the introductions. The fun fact meant that everyone learned something new about each other, and it made it easier to remember everyone’s name.
When girls feel like they are connected socially, it helps create team chemistry. While girls might naturally find things in common over time through conversations, small ice breakers can be incorporated throughout practice in order to jump-start the connections. A coach or the Captain of the Week can lead these games.
Begin Practice with Ice Breakers
Start with a question: what your name and a question
• favorite ice cream flavor
• favorite subject
• favorite breakfast, lunch or dinner food
• favorite animal (and why)
• favorite thing to do at an amusement park
• favorite sport to watch or play
• favorite color
• favorite tv show
• favorite book
• favorite emoji
• favorite movie
• favorite dessert
• favorite holiday
• favorite candy
• favorite beverage
Would You Rather: Stand Up/Sit Down
Would you rather…
• eat pizza or pasta (pizza stand up/pasta sit down)
• movie or tv
• chocolate or vanilla
• skiing or snowboarding
• sweet or salty
• pretzel or potato chips
• ocean or forest
• hide and seek or dodgeball
• sing or dance
• be the oldest or youngest
• popsicle or cupcake
• summer Olympics or winter Olympics
• cat or dog
• be a babysitter or dog sitter
• hamburger or hot dog
• skateboard or bike
• theme park or zoo
• get up early or stay up late
• rich or famous
• dance or draw
• swings or slide
• oldest or youngest
• only child or middle child
Mindfully Form Small Groups
Now that the team is getting to know one another, breaking them up into small groups helps them form connections.
Count Off: The quickest way to break up cliques is to have the team count off as girls naturally stand together by friend group.
Assign Small Groups: You can break up the usual groups by creating them beforehand.
Let Them Form Their Own Groups: Set parameters and let your team form their own groups. For example, no one can be from the same town in a group. Or no one can be from the same school. Or no one can be the same preferred position.
Line Drill Connection: Use the practice drills to integrate a connection. For example, at the end of a line drill, have the girls in two lines figure out how they want to connect at the end of the drill. Will it be a high five, fist bump, elbow bump, or handshake?
Link Arm Drills: Try a drill or scrimmage with players pairing up and liking their arms together. It will take coordination and communication to decide how they are going to move! This has the added bonus of being fun and silly.
Make It an Event
Celebrating Birthdays: Whether it’s at a practice or a game, it’s always fun to celebrate a birthday. The birthday girl can bring a treat for everyone such as cupcakes, brownies, or cookies.
Pump-Up Letter: Assign players in pairs to give each other a pump-up letter of encouragement before a game.
Secret Santa: Coordinate a Secret Santa exchange of small gifts, like a healthy snack, before the games. The end of the season can be the “big reveal.”
Social Justice Cause: A team building exercise, such as a social justice cause, can be done at practice, in lieu of practice, or in addition to practice. Some ideas include wearing pink to raise awareness for breast cancer or collecting used cleats and uniforms to donate to charity. More ambitious projects can include fundraising for a nonprofit. Let your team choose a charity and a project to support it.
• Helping girls find connections helps to create team chemistry.
• The Captain of the Week or the coach can lead ice breakers at the beginning of practice.
• There are also opportunities to find connection during drills.
• Create parameters to form small groups that mix the team up from the groups that already exist due to carpools or from going to the same school.
• Additional events such as celebrating birthdays, social causes, or team pair drills can help create additional connections.
p.s. More free resources from How To Coach Girls:
Free, downloadable forms for coaches based on various chapters in HOW TO COACH GIRLS.
Want to learn more? Three free chapters here:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.