Many of the head coaches I’ve coached planned some off-field activities instead of a practice to give the team members a mental and physical break from training camp, but also to try to bring the team together on a personal competitive level, outside of football.
The different activities the head coaches chose were interesting alone. The best plan was carried out in Green Bay.
The team was on the practice field just finishing warm-up when 5 buses pulled up close to the locker rooms. Like everyone else, I couldn’t help but notice them and wonder what they were for. Then the car horn blew twice indicating it was time to form up with the Head Coach. Training Camp practices in Green Bay were almost always open to the public. There happened to be a large crowd that day. The head coach instructed players to head back to the locker room for further direction. We were all puzzled.
When we arrived at our lockers, there were instructions to put on the directed attire and load the buses. The beauty of the plan was the secrecy and starting in practice uniform on the field first.
It was an exceptionally hot and humid day. The Head Coach’s direction to head to the locker room was met with a tremendous roar. The deception was flawless. Not only were the players and coaches duped, but so were the fans. I don’t think they were expecting an opportunity to watch their team as enthusiastic as the team was about practice ending after 15 minutes! The Head Coach carried out the deception like a well-designed game plan.
Back to the different activities. The most popular choice by head coaches was bowling. Normally it was set up with a competitive format. Offense vs Defense as an example.
I don’t think of bowling as an activity based on the team building aspect as much as it was the easiest logistically with a confined area and a ready-made kitchen for food and drinks.
Softball was another activity which worked well logistically and was thoroughly enjoyed by players and staff. A minor league venue made it accessible and convenient. We had one attempt at golf with one organization. It was not a disaster, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The organization was challenged by the game with the exception of most QBs and kickers.
Getting back to the Green Bay activity. We were instructed to dress in sweatshirts and sweatpants and wear our gloves like receivers; all of that was very strange considering it was 88 degrees and the humidity about 90%. The buses loaded and off we went. Twenty minutes into the trip there was not a house or business within miles, we were somewhere in the middle of rural, wooded Wisconsin landscape.
A minute or two later we turned onto a dirt road and stopped near a clearing about a half mile in. As we unloaded, we each grabbed two bottles of water and walked a quarter mile to the clearing. There we found two wooden towers and a dozen or more people handing out protective headgear and weapons. We were going to paintball war!!! Offense vs Defense.
Game plans were made on the fly. Whoever captured the opponent’s tower first was the winner. Plays were made, leaders emerged, the battle began and chaos ensued.
Getting hit by a paintball is not pleasant and almost everyone had the welts to prove it. What a day! It was just as sweaty a workout in those pants and long sleeves as a practice.
It was also by far the best kept secret and most fascinating of all the team building activities I’ve experienced.