Why Connection and Relationships in Sport Are so Critical

January, 18 2021

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We are living in a time of isolation. A way of life not very conducive to sport. Yet we have teams that have formed and have taken advantage of every opportunity that has allowed them to come together, no matter how uncertain or limited. We have all become versed in video chats and online workouts…even doing yoga in groups…on video!

Well, it’s been 10 months and the intrigue of how we could adjust to this contactless world has worn off. What once seemed pretty innovative and made us realize there is possibility beyond traditional meetings has also confirmed that we need that elusive in-person time. The energy that comes alongside change, the excitement of having extra time not having to travel has allowed us and the ability to take a moment is so 2020.

Taking a look at what we can do when we can’t do the things we are accustomed to will allow coaches and athletes to continue to thrive and be ready for a time when things look a lot more familiar. Consider, if you will, connection and relationship when it comes to getting to know players and developing teams.

The importance of Connection

We are accustomed to getting a team together, working towards a shared goal and forming a connection through practice, training and team building. Connection has typically been made by the time teams have spent together. Though it might look different now, there are many opportunities to build that connection among teammates in preparation for that ever-sought time to play.

Did You Know?

  • The developmental stage of athletes on a team will impact individual and team connection.

Connection Point - This can happen at any time. Authentic praise and support from a coach increases self-esteem and enjoyment.

  • Athletes are strengthened when they have more than just one identity.

Connection Point - This can be achieved through communication. Athletes who develop a balanced personal and athletic identity are better ablet to cope with demands.

  • Interpersonal relationships and connection impact every aspect of life.

Connection Point - This can be bolstered with positive interactions, group solidarity and closeness.

The Importance of Relationship

Commonly, we build relationships by spending time together, getting to know each other and being in one another’s company. Unfortunately, things have not looked like what we’re accustomed to. But relationship building is still very possible.

Did You Know?

  • Active listening and compromise are skills that serve individuals in both sport and life.

Relationship BuildThis can be achieved by getting to know more about each other than just the athletic side.

  • Athletes are more likely to feel secure in exploring their role, pushing their boundaries

and taking risks when they have close relationships with their coaches.

Relationship BuildThis develops when coaches are holistic in their approach to forming relationships with their athletes.

  • A strong coach-athlete relationship encourages individual growth and team performance.

Relationship BuildThis happens when coaches take the time to get to know the individual on the team.

Together with many coaches, we have come up with some ideas on how to support connection and build relationship within teams while existing without in person opportunities. Give some of these a try to help connect and build relationships on your team when you have yet another video call.

  • Use breakout rooms to allow for smaller groups to get to know each other (ask specific questions) and report back to the larger group.
  • Use a scheduled meeting as an opportunity to play a game (trivia, bingo, Pictionary) rather than Xs and Os.
  • Designate groups (forwards, defense) to determine the plan and lead the next video meeting.
  • Connect a veteran with a rookie to check in on each other weekly.

It is understandable that people may be feeling fatigued and finding it challenging to stay motivated. However, if we can keep from being discouraged there is incredible opportunity to focus on the things that may have gotten lost if our circumstances were different. Keep pushing through!


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