With everyone under a stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, coaches everywhere have been forced to find ways to connect with their teams utilizing technology.
We’ve been able to connect with a ton of coaches during our Online Clinic, and there has been a ton of great clinic content floating out there via social media as well to consume. But the programs that are best prepared come the fall are going to be the ones who are leaving no stone unturned and who find creative ways to get better and bring those in your program together when we can’t be close physically.
The COVID shutdown has posed a really unique challenge to coaches like myself, who are taking over a new program. Normally, I’d be in the building, creating relationships with our players and getting to know them along with the faculty and staff. Unable to do that coaches like myself have had to get creative to find ways to connect.
Looking to find a way to connect virtually, most coaches have utilized the Zoom platform to do a variety of things. While everyone is likely meeting as a staff for offensive and defensive topics, I wanted to find a way to get my new guys together and illustrate what our new team culture is going to look like. Instead of just talking at them, I wanted to find ways to engage and fascinate them during our time together. During that quest, I found a few virtual Zoom activities that we’ve either been able to do firsthand, or have heard of other coaches doing doing the self-quarantine.
Here are a 5 fun and simple ways to engage with your players as well as your staff, and even families in your program.
1) SCAVENGER HUNT
In our first virtual Zoom meeting, I wanted to touch on our programs core values and find a way to get players involved in it. We had a few weight room sessions with the kids before school got shut down for the year, so were able do some fun competitions to end our workouts, but I wanted to find a way to compete virtually to continue to highlight the importance of that.
We held a team scavenger hunt at the end of that first Zoom meeting. Players were given an item to search for from a coach, and they had to leave their camera and go and find it and return to the camera’s view to show it. Coaches sent them on a search for everything from a pencil, to clothing with the school name on it, to a pair of sunglasses. First player to return to their cameras view with the item won. It was a great way to get to know the kids, get them smiling and enjoying our time together as a team while illustrating a core principle of our program, and allow them an avenue to compete.
For those of you that aren’t on TikTok, this one won’t make a whole lot of sense. But since I have spent more time than I’m willing to admit scrolling through my TikTok feed recently, I found this fun and interactive game that I thought we could pretty easily adapt and use virtually.
For those unfamiliar with the Gibberish phenomenon can catch it, and give it a go, below.
So how did we adapt this to do it virtually as a team? I would share my screen with the Gibberish word on one slide, give them 10 minutes to answer, and then advance to the next slide with the answer on it. So it would look something like this.
Kids would chime in with the answer, and I promised to deliver a quarantine care package to the winner (who knew the hack to figuring these phrases out much easier).
3) THEME DAYS
Much like a lot of programs utilize during the off season to spice things up in the weight room, or in-season during the grind of practices, we decided to use a theme day during our second team meeting. The goal was to allow kids to be themselves, and allow us to get to know their personalities a bit more as a (largely) new staff.
So the day of the meeting, I shared on our team Instagram page that they were encouraged to wear a costume to the Zoom meeting that night. Best costume would be voted on by the coaches and receive a special treat. What made this especially entertaining was that not all of our staff has Instagram, so they hopped onto the call not having a clue of what we asked the kids to do. Some kids dressed up in typical Halloween costumes, or stuff they had around the house. Others took it to the next level and dressed in drag. Coaches without Instagram had no idea what they were getting into when they hopped on the call to see all of the costumes, and it created a ton of smiles and laughs, and a great way to let off some steam for the kids.
Overall, I feel like this created a memorable moment for the kids in our program that took part.
4) FAMILY MEETINGS
I’ve talked with a number of newly named head coaches that have had to find creative ways to connect with their new team, families, and community while and also navigating this quarantine. One idea that I have really liked is from a handful of coaches that have found a way to have virtual meetings with each family in their program.
The way I have heard coaches who have done this has been to schedule a 10-15 minute block with each family where they get to know the player, and the mom, dad and siblings in the program. It takes some investment of time, but when things are able to return to “normal” each family now feels a connection to the new head coach in a unique way.
As a program at Comstock Park, we were able to have a virtual parents meeting, but I really think there is a lot of value in meeting with families individually if you’re able to swing it.
5) YOUTH CLINIC
In my experience, the most successful programs are ones that are connected from the bottom to the top. This quarantine has allowed some extra time to make sure your youth, middle school, and high school programs are in alignment. I realize that is easier said than done a lot of places, and while it may be advantageous to have the entire K-12 program running the same offense and defense, I strongly believe that there is a lot of value in getting on the same page in terms of the language and verbiage that is being used.
Last week, I was able to round up the coaches who graciously volunteer their time in the youth ranks and give them an outline of what I’m looking for and a handful of things I would like us to be on the same page with that will help the teaching progression as they rise from level-to-level. It also allowed me an opportunity to get in front of them and tell them about my family, my values, and how much I appreciate what they do as the stewards of our program at the lower level and an opportunity for me to ask them what I can do to help them and what they’re looking for in the leader of their varsity program.