Team building is a critical element to any successful volleyball team, however melding a roster of individuals into a team is no easy task. There is a subtle, yet critical difference between a team culture of “fitting in” and a team culture of “belonging”. A fitting in culture pressures sameness and social compatibility among players. A team culture of belonging means that you can bring your authentic self to the court and be a part of something bigger than yourself. A fitting in culture ostracizes individuals who don’t fit the mold. A team culture of belonging helps players reach their optimal potential by recognizing everyone’s unique gifts and contributions to the team.

So, how do you unify a group of individual players into a team with a shared sense of purpose? Here’s three ways to cultivate a culture of belonging on your team.

1. Put an end to team gossip

Gossip is lethal to teams. It erodes trust, damages confidence, and destroys friendships. Gossip has the potential to fracture the very foundation of the team as a whole. Yet gossip is extremely common among teams because it often happens at an unconscious level. Changing the pattern requires developing awareness and a commitment to treating teammates with compassion. By educating players on the harmful impact of gossip, teammates have an opportunity to go from being bullies to potentially life-saving allies.

2. Have brave conversations with your players

Creating space for players to have brave conversations about their differences can bridge the divides that separate teammates. Don’t shy away from uncomfortable dialogue about how matters like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion impact player’s lives off the court. Instead, shatter stereotypes by helping your athletes move beyond their assumptions about one another and learn what life is like in their teammate’s shoes. Teams that thrive understand one another’s differences and find ways to connect.

3. Celebrate diversity

In today’s world, fostering an environment where players can feel safe, seen and supported by their teammates is critical to team building. To belong on a team means to be welcomed as-is, without having to hide, shrink or suppress parts of one’s identity. If players can learn to celebrate the differences in their teammates, they will be set up for success in life. Celebrating diversity on teams can lay the foundation for meaningful connection among teammates, improve athlete retention rate and ultimately help your team win more games.

To learn more inclusive team building strategies, mindset training tips and resources for your volleyball team, visit Headstrong Mindset Consulting and download a free workbook for volleyball.

About the Author

Brooke Rundle is a former professional volleyball player and the founder of Headstrong Mindset Consulting. Rundle authored the book Headstrong, a mindset training and team building book designed specifically for volleyball teams to read and work through together. She currently works as a mindset coach for club and college volleyball teams while pursuing her doctorate in Sport Performance Psychology at the University of Western States.

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