skip navigation

6 Ways Youth Sports Coaches Can Encourage Teamwork

By TrueSport, 05/08/18, 8:15AM CDT


While we praise youth sports as a great way to develop teamwork, figuring out how to actually teach it isn’t always obvious as a coach. Preaching the importance of working together often falls on deaf ears at the youth level, as it’s the kind of advice that has become cliché, like ‘play hard’ or ‘give 110%.’
But while teamwork might seem like an abstract and over-killed concept, it can be taught in ways that aren’t so overt, such as through games, goal setting, or simply through modelling team-first behavior.

1) Create Drills Athletes Want to Win

While everyone wants to win, even that isn’t enough if youth athletes aren’t having fun playing together. Teamwork can be taught in ways other than in ‘live-action’ games or scrimmages, such as through practice drills that divide athletes into mini-teams and force them to rely on each other in order to win the exercise.

An example of this is the popular end-of-practice soccer drill called ‘World Cup.’ All players are divided into teams of two and the playing field is restricted to half of a soccer field (or less, depending on the age and number of kids). With each team representing a country of their choosing, the players must try and score on a coach playing goalkeeper. When a team scores, they step aside until the next round begins—the last team remaining in a round (having not scored) is eliminated and the process repeats until there is just one team left standing.

2) Set Measurable Goals

Most youth athletes begin having their game statistics and training progress recorded by coaches around the junior high or high school level. While tracking this kind of data works well in creating a thirst for individual improvement, setting team or position-based goals can also be an effective tactic in getting everyone to work better together.

Football position coaches often have specific criteria for success for their respective groups, which get displayed on a big board in the team’s locker room. These per-game goals can be as specific as a target number of quarterback rushes for the defensive line or downfield blocks for the wide receiver corps, but all require the entire unit working together. Striving to meet these benchmarks in turn helps the team reach their overarching goal of winning a game, title, or tournament. After a game or ahead of the next practice, the goals can then be reviewed and tweaked in order to encourage further improvement or consistent peak performance as a team.

3) Dole Out Responsibility and Roles

One of the best ways to get a group to work together is by designating a specific role for each individual. Only once everyone understands how their job fits into the larger puzzle can a team play together optimally.

The power of giving out roles is a way to encourage teamwork, even if just by making it clear who on your basketball team is a point guard, a power forward, and so on. After defining these players’ roles clearly, pairing up players of the same position in practices can help them better learn from one another their duties on offense and defense.

4) Give Ownership

TrueSport logo

About TrueSport

TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.