Tuesday Tips: Cultivating Team Identity Even While Apart

We dig into the Tuesday Tips archives to resurface some advice for teams trying to survive and thrive during a seemingly indefinite offseason.

Albany All Bashed Out honoring their former teammate while awaiting the opening pull at the 2018 WMUCC Men's Masters final. Photo: Sandy Canetti -- UltiPhotos.com
Albany All Bashed Out honoring their former teammate while awaiting the opening pull at the 2018 WMUCC Men’s Masters final. Photo: Sandy Canetti — UltiPhotos.com

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For much of the world, on-field competition remains on an indefinite hiatus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for a return to play. Even if you can’t get out and scrimmage with your teammates, you can still nurture ongoing relationships by focusing on and honing your team identity.

Any successful club knows the value of establishing a team identity, whether it is an inside-joke mantra to keeps you focused through a single season or a long-term vision that defines who you are as a program. But those things don’t just happen by accident — they are the result of cultivating an environment conducive to collective buy-in.

For captains and coaches looking to make the most of this most unusual offseason, we’ve pulled together a series of articles from our Tuesday Tips archives that lay out some ideas for how best to develop a cohesive team identity, whenever your next season starts.

Alex Rummelhart on The Importance Of Team Identity

Not really sure what we’re talking about when we say “team identity”? Tuesday Tips super-contributor Alex “Uber” Rummelhart lays out his definition of the term, as well as the different ways it can be developed. Whether a collective identity is discovered naturally over time, purposely built by leadership, or forged through hardship and conflict, Rummelhart argues that teams that focus on cultivating and repairing fractured identities are much more likely to succeed, both in the short- and long-term.

Tom Banister-Fletcher on Know Your Team’s Identity to Become a Better Leader

Defining a proposed team identity might actually be the easy part. Having a dedicated and trusted leader who can consistently model and reinforce that identity is often essential to making it stick. Psychologist Tom Banister-Fletcher discusses how leaders can strengthen their team’s buy-in by really understanding what is important to and drives team members, then communicating and exemplifying those characteristics as a way to motivate and build confidence throughout the squad.

Guylaine Girard on The Five Stages Of Tribal Leadership

In another evaluation of the importance of leaders to team identity, former Montreal Royal head coach Guylaine Girard applies the theory of tribal leadership to ultimate teams to explain how certain programs are able to remain at the top of the game year after year. By pushing a team to progress up a ladder of stages that define their overall outlook and mindset, leaders can elicit almost religious fervor in working toward their collective goals. Girard lays out a plan for how leaders can guide a team through this process, with specific examples plucked from her ultimate experience.

Naomi Redmond on How To Develop Chemistry In The Offseason

An early step in developing a team identity is generating genuine chemistry among teammates. It is an at times elusive trait, but one that allows a collection of talented individual players to achieve a sum that is greater than their parts. Former Canadian U24 representative and college captain Naomi Redmond knows a thing or two about how to build that chemistry, and knows that it often starts in the offseason. Redmond provides a series of tips — from planning some structured team hang-out time to engaging in activities beyond ultimate to continually mixing up the pods of teammates interacting with each other — that will develop team chemistry even when you’re not on the field together, feeding into a stronger team identity.

Kelsey Hayden on How to Stay Connected with Your Team While Social Distancing

While most of Redmond’s tips can be completed from afar even during a time of global pandemic, it’s nice to have some specific recommendations for activities that are relevant in the time of coronavirus. Earlier this year, Ultiworld Staff Writer Kelsey Hayden put together a list of five specific things teams could do to remain engaged with each other while holed up in various levels of quarantine. There’s never been a better time to get your teammates together for some structured video study or up your team’s social media game in ways that highlight teammates and keep people excited about the camaraderie you’ve already built.

  1. Steve Sullivan
    Steve Sullivan

    Steve Sullivan is the Executive Editor of Ultiworld. He began playing in 2001 at Boston University, helped found and then played 14 seasons with Slow White, and most recently competed with San Francisco Blackbird. He has volunteered as a college Sectional Coordinator, a club Regional Coordinator, served three terms as a player-elected representative for the Mixed division on USAU's Club Working Group, and is currently an At-Large rep on the USAU Board of Directors. He has previously written for the USAU magazine and The Huddle, and was editor of the book "Ultimate: The First Five Decades, Vol II." You can reach him by email (steve@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@sjsully21).

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