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How do you create a team that works? Part One

Many of the leagues I coach ask me to teach them teamwork drills. “We have great individual skaters but as soon as they have to play their role as part of a team it all breaks down.”

This is a common problem for all levels of skaters. And actually can be even harder for veteran skaters to learn than it is for newer skaters. Derby has developed into a team driven sport – the higher level teams demonstrating that executing strategy as a unit wins out over individual skill every time (watch last years WFTDA final Oly v Gotham if you want to see it this for yourself.)

There are lots of drills that focus on pack work and communication. I wrote about a few in a previous post

But to really skate as a team on the track the work has to start way before you lace up your skates.

Building a team 101

1) Decide what type of team you want to be or “Who are we?”

Do you want this to be the “fun” team with lots of post practice parties? The “family” team where everyone is supported and everyone gets equal playing time? Are you highly competitive and only play your strongest skaters? The farm team for the All Stars where everyone is striving to get to the next level?

Make sure all team members know what this decision will mean in terms of attendance expectations, social engagements and roster decisions.

There is no wrong answer and people may disagree (what derby girls disagree, never!) but the important thing is that all team members are comfortable with the decision made at the end – or at least willing to try it for a period of time.

2) Write up a team code of conduct or “How do we get to where we are going?”

We have one for our All Star team which I am very proud of. It’s on a big piece of paper in lots of colored pens and I stick it up on the wall whenever we have a team meeting.

A few of our items are:
Respect for EVERY member
Communicate with your team
NO DRAMA (but raunchy gossip is ok)
Take responsibility for your own emotions/actions
Have fun
110% effort always

3) Make some goals or “Where are we going?”

When we came together to write down our goals (again on a big piece of paper in fun colors) we decided to make our goals for one year. We brainstormed ideas for about half and hour. Writing down everything anyone said and not judging them. Then we looked at all the goals we had and came up with our top 20. From that we voted on a top 10 so that the team was really focused.

This year some of ours were:
Get super awesome fit
Make it to regionals in 2012
Raise $25,000 for traveling money
Master the fundamentals
Have a team camping/bonding trip

Every time we have a team meeting I stick these up on the wall so we can refer to them when we are making decisions, plus this is a great time to evaluate how close we are to achieving these goals.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have just completed the hardest part of the process. All you need to do now is take your combined energy and focus onto the track!

Our next blog post will help you translate this teamwork into your skating.

Did you know that Camp Pivotstar offers more than just on skate coaching? We can help your team or league craft your own road map to success. For more info check out our website:

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