Implementing a Team-Building Workshop

posted by Tyler Bradstreet

Hello all,

It has been a busy time. I have been finishing up my master’s degree and Adam has been transitioning into a new job – performance specialist for military personnel (congrats Adam). Since we haven’t posted in two months, I figured it was time to do so. I have seen a lot of articles and heard a lot of people talking about implementing team-building workshops. They seem to be very popular right now – which could be a good thing for sport psychology consultants trying to make a living! I recently developed a team building workshop (specifically tailored to a men’s collegiate basketball team, but you could edit it to fit any sport) and wanted to share it with everyone. I have to give special thanks to Gene Farren, one of my fellow master’s students here at UNT, as he also put a lot of work into developing this workshop. Hopefully after reading our manual/paper, it will provide you with some ideas as to how you might want to implement a team building workshop (Plus, as I’ve found…it’s always to have resources saved away in case you ever need them!) Enjoy.


            In recent years, team building workshops have become one of the most popular and widely used intervention strategies for improving management relations and organizational effectiveness in business, industry, and sport (Yukelson, 1997). Brawley and Paskevich (1997) define team building as a method of helping groups: (a) increase effectiveness, (b) satisfy members’ needs, and (c) improve work conditions. Patten (1981) explains that team building interventions are often utilized to teach group members the importance of cooperation, so that group members can share skills, knowledge, and resources more effectively. Thus, allowing the group or organization to run smoother and more efficiently. Ultimately, the main objective of building a strong team is to improve overall performance and develop a sense of solidarity within the group.

In sport, it has been stated that team unity or solidarity is one of the cornerstones upon which effective team performances are built (Zander, 1975). Over the years, many coaches have been quoted saying that the most gratifying experiences of their careers were when their teams got along well and worked together in a cohesive, efficient manner (Yukelson, 1997). These beliefs are why many coaches frequently employ team building workshops that are designed to improve: (a) team cohesion, (b) role understanding, (c) communication, (d) leadership, (e) satisfaction, and (f) performance (Paradis & Martin, 2012). Unfortunately, for many coaches, developing a unified sport environment around their teams can be quite difficult. This difficulty could stem from indecision or lack of confidence during the implementation process of team building programs and/or activities (Paradis & Martin, 2012). In order to avoid these issues, coaches should first understand the how to properly deliver the team building techniques (Yukelson, 1997).

Direct vs. Indirect Delivery

            Team building programs can be delivered in either a direct (Yukelson, 1997) or indirect method (Carron, Spink, & Prapavessis, 1997). Paradis and Martin (2012) explain that a direct method is where the sport psychology consultants (SPCs) work directly with the athletes, whereas an indirect method is where the SPCs work directly with the coach, who then implements the workshop. Both methods have been found to be equally effective, but coaches should employ the method they feel most comfortable implementing (Martin, Carron, & Burke, 2009; Paradis & Martin, 2012). The following pages will detail a direct method team building workshop that is tailored to be implemented with collegiate basketball players.

Four Phase Approach to Team Building

           In order to implement an effective direct method team building workshop, a detailed structure must establish by the SPCs. Based upon Carron and Spink’s (1993) four-phase program, the SPCs devised this specific workshop into the following phases: (a) introductory, (b) conceptual, (c) practical, and (d) intervention. First, the purpose of the introductory phase allows the SPCs to simply introduce the program while also providing background regarding the importance and benefits of team building. This foundation should spark greater motivation and adherence to the program. Second, the purpose of the conceptual phase is to introduce the workshop’s conceptual framework. However, since athletes may not be interested in the theory behind the program, the SPCs should explain how the team would benefit from this specific program or framework. Third, the purpose of the practical phase is to allow the athletes to become active participants in developing strategies within the team building program. This should spark increased commitment to the program from the athletes. Last, the purpose of the intervention stage is to simply implement the specific program and its activities.


Target Population

            The initial fall semester for incoming freshmen and junior college transfer collegiate basketball student-athletes can be a pivotal time in terms of social and sport development. Each incoming athlete has most likely left an environment where they were probably the best player on a team comprised mostly of familiar and longstanding teammates, and now each one of these athletes are entering a new unfamiliar environment where they most likely have different perspectives, experiences, goals, and values in terms of basketball. Additionally, this time can also be pivotal for the existing athletes in the collegiate basketball program. These new, younger athletes are coming into their program competing for positions or filling the vacancies left by departing teammates (e.g., graduating seniors), who they had built rapport and trust with during their time playing together. It is pertinent to the future success of the basketball program that the incoming athletes assimilate smoothly into the program by learning, understanding, and accepting their new roles. It is also important that during this process the whole team, including these new players, establishes rapport and trusts each another. Thus, in order to help teammates effectively develop rapport and trust within their program, a three-day team building workshop has been developed to be implemented with a collegiate basketball program (12-15 athletes) by SPCs.


Time Frame

The three-day team building workshop is implemented by the SPCs at the beginning of the fall semester once the new freshmen and junior college transfer athletes have arrived on campus, ideally prior to the start of classes. Specifically, the three-day team building workshop is completed over the course of one week. Although the workshop can be completed over three consecutive days, it has shown to be more effective when there is a day between each session so that the athletes can process what was learned, as well as having time to prepare for the next session (i.e., three day workshop, meeting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Each session is scheduled to last approximately two hours.


In order for the SPCs to implement the team building workshop, a private facility on campus (either an athletic facility or a general campus facility) is needed that provides enough seating to accommodate all the team members and has technology access (i.e., computer and projector for PowerPoint presentation). Additionally, the facility needs have enough free-use space for engaging activities (approximately, 50’x50’), or be in close proximity to another facility for the activities (e.g., basketball gym).

Materials Needed

Since workshops are more interesting and effective in engaging athletes when the activities used are “tell-me, show-me, and/or let-me-try-it” activities, the SPCs will need to have appropriate materials prepared for the workshop. Specifically, the icebreaker used during the first session of the workshop will require a duffle bag filled with various sport-related items (e.g., tape, headphones, Gatorade). Also, the activity used during the first session will require orange safety cones (12), blindfolds (6), and basketballs (3). The activities used during the second and third sessions of the workshop will require each athlete to have pen and paper. Additionally, each session will require a basketball that will be used to keep athletes engaged (i.e., pass basketball to athletes who are answering questions; athletes pass basketball between one another while engaging in discussions).

Detailed Workshop Schedule

Session One

The initial session will begin with an introductory of who the SPCs are and the services they provide. Then, the SPCs will allow the athletes to individually introduce themselves (i.e., name, high school attended, position played, and why the athlete chose this university) to the rest of the team and the SPCs. After the introductions, the SPCs will pass a basketball (engaging activity to get athlete’s attention) to an upperclassman and ask him to speak about the program’s previous season. Next, an icebreaker activity (i.e., grab bag) will be enacted in order to begin the development of rapport between the athletes (See Appendix A). Grab bag entails each athlete standing up in front of the group (one at a time), reaching into the duffle bag and pulling out one sport-related item, and then explaining to the group how the item relates to them in their sport and/or life. The other athletes will then discuss if the relation stated is either similar for them or if they have a different relationship with the item. After the icebreaker, the SPCs will provide a brief presentation over the importance of effective communication and trust. The SPCs use 4 steps when discussing effective communication: (a) be clear and concise, (b) be straightforward, (c) be timely as possible, and (d) be proactive rather than reactive. For trust, the SPCs use an “eight-pillar approach,” and the pillars are: (a) consistency, (b) clarity, (c) compassion, (d) character, (e) contribution, (f) competency, (g) connection, and (h) commitment. This presentation will lead into the main activity of the session (i.e., blindfold obstacle course). The blindfold obstacle course allows the athletes to work on effective communication, working as a team, and trusting one another. This activity entails breaking the athletes into three groups and having them verbally guide their blindfolded team member through the obstacle course while he dribbles the ball. The course is completed when each team member has successfully been guided through the obstacle course (See Appendix B). After the activity is completed, the SPCs will conduct a debriefing of the activity and get feedback from athletes regarding their experience during the activity. After debriefing, the SPCs will sum up the main takeaway points from session one and briefly outline the next session of the workshop.

Session Two

The second session will begin with another introduction, but this time working as a group (“blindfold” teammates) the athletes must introduce all the members of a different group. The athletes should try and recall as much information as possible (including information learned during the grab bag activity) about each team member. This activity will also serve as an icebreaker. After the introduction/icebreaker, the SPCs will provide a brief presentation over what traditional values all teams must share in order to be successful (e.g., honesty, selflessness, responsibility, effort, and integrity). This presentation will then again lead into the main activity of the session (i.e., core team dynamics). This activity allows the athletes evaluate and rank their values; thus becoming self-aware of team identity and team strengths. With the provided pen and paper, each athlete should answer the following six questions: (a) as an athlete, what do I stand for; (b) what do I value in a teammate; (c) what kind of player do I aspire to become; (d) what else do I need to know to be a good teammate; (e) where or whom can seek or give guidance; and (f) who do I need in order to achieve my goals? Once each athlete has answered all the questions (approximately 15 minutes), the SPCs will pass a basketball to an upperclassman (e.g., team captain) and ask them to state how they answered the first question. All players that answered the first questioned similarly will then be asked to stand up. The upperclassman will then pass the basketball to a player that is not standing (or any player if all are standing). The chosen player will then be asked to state how they answered the second question, and all players that answered this questioned similarly will then be asked to stand up. This process will then continue for all six questions. This activity will highlight what common values each athlete shares with his or her team, and it should help solidify who they are as a team. After the activity is completed, the SPCs will conduct a debriefing of the activity and get feedback from athletes regarding their experience during the activity. After debriefing, the SPCs will sum up the main takeaway points from session two and briefly outline the next session of the workshop.

Session Three

The third session will again begin with another introduction/icebreaker where the athletes will work as a group (“blindfold” teammates), but this time the athletes must introduce all the members of the other group. The athletes should try and recall as much information as possible (including information learned during the grab bag activity and the core team dynamics activity) about each team member. After the introduction/icebreaker, the SPCs will again provide a brief presentation explaining aspects of common team and individual goals. The last slide of the presentation will ask, “What is your goal, and what is expected?” Before being allowed to answer these questions, the athletes will be divided into four groups by classification (i.e., freshmen, sophomores, etc.). Each group will then be asked to discuss these questions as a group. Once each group has come a consensus, the SPCs will pass a basketball two one of the four groups and asked them to share their responses. Then that group will pass the basketball to another group so that they can share their responses. After all groups have shared their responses, the ball will continually be passed so that each team member can give his or her ideas and input into how the goals and objectives can be best achieved. This activity allows each person’s voice to be heard and makes all feel like they are part of a larger organization that strives to reach its peak performance. After the activity is completed, the SPCs will conduct a debriefing of the activity and get feedback from athletes regarding their experience during the activity. After debriefing, the SPCs will sum up the main takeaway points from the entire workshop.


            Team building has been used in the sport setting for a many years. However, implementing a team building workshop does not cure all performance problems. Martin et al. (2009) stated that although interactive teams do profit from team building programs, in some instances many teams are already cohesive so further improvement may be minimal to nil. This is why understanding what areas a team needs improvement in is crucial for coaches. Moreover, coaches need not only to know how to implement or deliver a program, but they should also know what program should be implemented. This team building workshop was designed so that incoming freshmen and junior college transfer collegiate basketball student-athletes would assimilate to their new team quickly and efficiently. It established a cohesive foundation that these players can hopefully build upon once practice and season start. Establishing effective communication, strong sense of trust, and sharing common values and goals will greatly benefit any team, especially teams that lack familiarity. Team building is about enhancing relationships, commitment, and accountability, and those values will remain with athletes long after they hang up their uniform.


Grab Bag

Objective:       To generate creative thinking in order to acquaint team members with one another.

Materials:       Bag and random objects pertaining to sport

Procedure:     Team members will take turns grabbing an item from the bag one at a time.

      • Once an item is selected, the teammate will explain how the item relates to them in their sport and life.
      • Other members will then discuss how the relationship described is either similar or different for other members of the team.


Blindfold Obstacle Course

Objective:       To foster effective communication skills, the importance of working as a team, and trusting one another.

Materials:       Safety cones (4 per group), blindfolds (1 per group), and basketballs (1 per group).

Procedure:     Divide into equal groups.

      • Each teammate (one at a time) will go through the obstacle course blindfolded, having to go around the outside of each cone while dribbling a basketball.
      • The other teammates (outside the course) will help navigate their blindfolded teammate through the course via verbal communication.
      • Once the blindfolded athlete reaches the end, they will switch places and another teammate will then go through the course.
      • The team has completed the course when every athlete has successfully completed the obstacle course blindfolded.



Objective:       To establish shared team values, team identity, and team strengths

Materials:       Pen and paper for each athlete.

Procedure:     Answer six questions.

      • Beginning with an upperclassman, teammates will have the chance to share their values.
      • Teammate will see how their responses are either similar or different to their teammates’.
      • All players should find that they have many of the same values as their teammates via comparison.
      • This activity will highlight the common values the entire team shares, and helps solidify core team dynamics


Team Goals Activity

Objective:       To discover team’s goals and come to a consensus on what this team is expected to accomplish.

Materials:       Pen and paper for each group (4 groups).

Procedure:     Divide into four groups by classification, and answer two broad questions aboutgoals.

      • Each group will discuss and come to a consensus on what the team’s goal is, and what is expected of the team.
      • Then each group (one at a time) will state their responses to the questions.
      • Once all groups have had a chance to speak, each athlete (one at a time) will be allowed to give his or her ideas and input into how the goals and objectives can be best achieved.


Brawley, L., & Paskevich, D. (1997). Conducting team building research in context of sport and exercise. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9, 11-40.

Carron, A., & Spink, K. (1993). Team building in an exercise setting. The Sport Psychologist, 7, 8-18.

Carron, A., Spink, K., & Prapavessis, H. (1997). Team building and cohesiveness in the sport and exercise setting: Use of indirect interventions. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9, 61-72.

Martin, L., Carron, A., & Burke, S. (2009). Team building interventions in sport: A meta-analysis. Sport and Exercise Psychology Review, 5(2), 3-18.

Paradis, K., & Martin, L. (2012). Team building in sport: Linking theory and research to practical application. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 3, 159-170.

Patten, T. (1981). Organizational development through team building. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Yukelson, D. (1997). Principles of effective team building interventions in sport: A direct services approach at Penn State. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9, 73-96.

Zander, A. (1975). Motivation and performance of sport groups. In D. Landers (Ed.), Psychology of sport and motor behavior II (pp. 25-29). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.


Kind Regards,

Tyler Bradstreet
Master’s Student, Sport and Exercise Psychology
Teaching Fellow: Kinesiology,  Health Promotion & Recreation
Consultant: Center for Sport Psychology & Performance Excellence
University of North Texas


1 thought on “Implementing a Team-Building Workshop”

  1. Nice work Tyler. I recently presented a similar program to a college team where the emphasis was on Leadership and Character. We implemented aspects of Peterson’s Character Strengths which led to a common understanding of qualities the team felt were important in carrying out the role of being a captain.

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