How to Improve Team Bonding and Teach an Important Lesson

We suggest that all coaches (especially youth coaches) incorporate "life lessons" into their basketball practices.

Ironically, the "life lesson" we'd like to share with you today also helps improve team bonding! So it's a win - win for everyone involved.

Before getting into the specifics, I'd first like to explain what we mean by "life lessons" and why you should use them in your practices...

We believe it's important to consciously teach "life lessons" because not only will this help you win more games -- but more importantly this sets a good example for your players and helps them develop into happy and successful people.

Whether you realize it or not, basketball coaches have a HUGE influence on their players. You have an opportunity to have a very positive impact on something much bigger and more important than basketball.

By teaching these "life lessons" you also improve your basketball team and win more games. But that's not the intent. The intent is just to do the "right thing" as a basketball coach. Winning is simply a pleasant by-product of doing the "right thing".

In this article, we'll be discussing one specific "life lesson" that is very important and also improves team bonding!

But before we get into that, let's further explain what exactly we mean by "life lessons".

What is a life lesson?

You can actually call it whatever you want - laws of life, truths of life, keys to success, or whatever you prefer.

But when we say "life lessons", we are referring to ideals to live by. These are the things that are truly important in life. These are the things that make people truly successful and happy.

For example, some of the following ideals and concepts are traits you'll find in truly happy and highly successful people:

  • Honesty - always tell the truth
  • Be proactive (life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it)
  • Work hard
  • Dedication
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Getting your priorities straight (family, school, etc)
  • Don't complain; focus your energy on the positive things.
Of course, there are more but this gives you the idea.

Now let's get into a specific lesson you can teach that helps improve your team bonding.

The core of the lesson is to simply teach your players the joy of giving and serving others. This is a very simple thing.

One of the truths in life is that great happiness and success comes from giving and serving others. You'll rarely find a genuinely happy person that doesn't give out to others and provides a positive to impact in other people's lives.

You can easily help your players discover this joy by arranging a team project. You simply organize an event where your team provides a service to others.

There are thousands of ways that your team can provide a great service to the community and humanity.

You could raise money for sick kids. You could volunteer to serve food to homeless people. You could have your team visit a children's hospital. You could even have your players teach a group of less privileged kids the joy of basketball. Provide a camp for young kids that can't afford to pay.

Let me tell you a story about my daughter that illustrated how this concept can have a profound effect....

One day after work, I asked my three year old daughter if she wanted to do something nice for mom. She said yes! So without my wife knowing, we went to the flower shop and picked out some flowers. We then went home and with a big smile on her face, my daughter carried in the flowers and gave them to her mother. It was big a surprise. They both had HUGE smiles on their faces. It was such a small thing but I think my daughter is getting hooked on the idea of doing something nice to make others happy. It was a big hit!

This is the same concept for your team. You just need to figure out a way to put your players in a genuine situation to make someone else happy. It's contagious.

There are tons of websites out there to give you ideas. Here are just a few websites but you should also submit your ideas at the end of this article too.

The key to make this work is to put your players in a situation where they can help someone and then see the look on the other persons face. If you get a genuine smile going both directions, it was successful. But in order for it to be genuine, your players need to believe and buy into the cause.

For some players, this small experience can stimulate them to continue helping others on their own. For other players, this won't sink in until they are adults and mature enough to understand the joy of giving.

Either way, almost all players will remember the event because it's such a unique and positive thing.

They feel good about it and since everyone on your team was involved they develop an unspoken bond.

The type of team bonding this can potentially produce is priceless!

Give it a shot and don't procrastinate. All coaches should teach the joy of giving.

It might sound cheesy, but it works. You have the opportunity to do something positive. So do it!

Please submit your ideas on positive services that your team can provide. The more ideas the better...


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R. Collie says:
10/17/2014 at 10:44:28 PM

Thank you for creating this resource. I am a mental health professional at a prison and am working to create a basketball group that teaches mental heath concepts and life lessons through the game. I am in the middle of creating the outline and what life lessons will be targeted but found your site to be a great resource! When you stop and think about the game itself it is amazing how much you can learn from it.

Thank you!


Ken Sartini says:
7/8/2014 at 9:32:26 AM

Ali -

Definately some great ideas ESPECIALLY for the younger kids.

Sorry I didn''t think of this.


Jeff Haefner says:
7/8/2014 at 8:50:14 AM

Good idea Coach Ali! I think I''ll try that with our youth team.


Coach Ali says:
7/8/2014 at 12:43:25 AM

I love that you wrote this. I've coached girls' basketball many years. I now have retired and I coach youth girls' basketball. I give homework assignments every practice. One week, their assignment is to make someone happy each day. Another assignments is to do something for someone without them asking. Another assignment is to do something for someone and not let that person know you did it. There are several like this. Another is, give your Mom, Dad, or sibling a hug goodnight, each night. At the practices after that particular assignment, we have a short discussion about how it made them feel. To me, as a coach, it's very moving.

  1 person liked this.  

Curtis Smyers says:
12/6/2013 at 10:25:22 PM

We run a Rising Stars League for 4th -8th grade girls in Battle Creek, MI. This is our 17th year in action!
We run 2 free clinics for 3rd -6th graders and have the 7th and 8th grade girls run the stations with a coach or even with another peer. The clinics run for 4 weeks from 2:00 - 4:30 on Sunday's in the spring and in the fall we have another 4 week clinic just before the season starts to get the juices flowing.
The girls that help with the clinic explode with confidence their last two years on and off the court! Oh by the way, they have to be in the clinic for at least 2 years prior to running a station, so that they use the same techniques we do.


Sean Glaze says:
9/19/2013 at 1:34:43 PM

Terrific Article, and absolutely an important part of building a team culture is establishing and emphasizing your core values - the virtues you want your team to display.
Take a look at this handout for implementing team virtues:


Dee says:
4/15/2013 at 8:56:58 AM

The Mbabane Raptors basketball team in SWaziland is planning on visiting a community school to play soccer with them and get to know them personaly. I know they would appreciate spending time with us..


Ken says:
12/24/2012 at 8:00:35 AM

Rizgar -

God Bless you for working with those kids... and yes, bball and life is a two way street... and we only get out of it, what we put into it. I hope that your holidays are good and have some fun with your kids.

Neil -

My only suggestion would be (since you have talked to him several times) start cutting his playing time until he gets the picture. Every time he acts out in games, take him and sit him along side of you.... a short explanation why and go on coaching the game. Ask HIM when he is ready to go back into the game and play like a team player and follow your rules, then let him back in. BUT, every time he crosses the line, take him out. Even a 12/13 year old will get the picture then.

Is the other coach this boy's father or just a fan/father? IF he isn't a coach, don't wait for him to tell the boy what he is doing wrong.... and if he is a coach and is condoning this behavior... then do it yourself anyway.

PLAYING TIME is a great motivator.


Neil says:
12/23/2012 at 8:49:46 PM

I coach a 7th grade travel team, and for the most part they get along, and try to do the right thing, but we Have one kid, and parent who have such a negative impact on the team, ( always goofing around during practice, always arguing with other teammates, and failing to be a team player, Now his attitude is effecting our team in a negative way, The father is always trying to create some sort of fight, or is only supposing his kids,
The other coach, and I have tried to explain to the other kids that the way to become a better team, Person is to commit to giving, and sacrificing their own game to improve others. Well after discussing this with some of the kids it has had a decent imp[act on us, but the one kid continues to act the same way, with all sorts of warnings, and talks. His father never tells him what he does is wrong, in fact he supports anything, he does!!
We are at our wits end with this kid, but we keep talking ourselves into keeping him, and trying to help him out, and make him understand the values of giving, and listening.
Are we just wasting time with this kid or is their a better approach to this??


Rizgar says:
12/23/2012 at 4:45:06 PM

We are in Iraq-Kurdistan!!!!
It is hard for our kids to understand BUT any coach uses those principals as gifts NOT just to others lives but will help him too...God bless all the ones who uses basketball for fixing mistakes and faults in other people and himself too!


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