What happens when a new player comes into your team? Just imagine for a second that you are a player, showing up for practice as usual and all of a sudden there’s a new face next to you in the dressing room. You shake this persons hand and present yourself and maybe ask a couple of questions that leads you to conclude that you have a new teammate.
The players on your team are used to talk about certain topics, they do this in a certain way and they have become so used to each others body language that they are able to unconsciously recognizes each other from afar.
All of a sudden you bring a new player into the team, a player who has a different body language sparking question marks in the heads of your players. What type of person is this? Why does he talk about that? How come he does this like that?
Since this new player talks in a different way and about different topics, act differently and is generally weird your players will not think of him as a part of us, a part of the team. At least not in the beginning, and some of your players might even perceive this new player as a threat – they may be right in terms of playing time.
As the coach you figure, rightfully so, that it’s a good idea to integrate this new player into the team as soon as possible. You decide to do some type of team bonding activity outside of training. The purpose being that your players get to know each other better, but what are the likely outcomes of such team bonding activities?
If the players get to know each other they will likely have less of a conscious wall up towards this new player. This means spending less time analyzing the new guy and more time doing what they’re supposed to do. In other words, by acquainting or becoming friendly with this new player, the others are now able to interpret his non-verbal and verbal communication better (after ample exposure). So congratulations, the communication in your team has improved after your team bonding activity, at least off the field…
Team bonding can also be used to influence team culture and the norms of the team. When this new player enters and start doing things differently there might be behaviors that is brought into your team culture that could help you and the team increase the chance of winning. Behaviors that in this new player’s former environment was a normative behavior, but in your team this might be brand new and unheard of.
Of course there’s also a possibility that the behaviors that your new players brings are detrimental to the team and should not be accepted. Either way you as the coach need to make a decision when bringing in new players, do you reinforce your current culture by sitting them down and telling them how its done around here, or do you use the team bonding to let the new players expand your team culture by adding new norms?
The risk of reinforcing your current norms is that the new player(s) may need to restrain their personality and as a result may not be able to contribute to the team on and off the field up to their potential. Since you probably want your new player to be the same player you scouted this could be an interesting dilemma.
Adding new norms could also be risky unless you have identified that these behaviors are what is needed to improve your team culture. Regardless of what you choose, you can use team bonding activities to not only improve the communication between your players off the field but also to improve your team culture.