Team Building Activities

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By Liz Bercaw

Undoubtedly, dance coaches have to access team-building instruction through various association resources. Once the competitive season arrives, it will be filled with busy schedules, making it tough to draw upon professional writings. So, here are some quick team building ideas, along with some great ideas from regional dance coaches that will inspire you to employ some quick team-building ideas.

Reasons for doing “team-building” are myriad, but thinking about them requires analytical reflection, a time consuming intense activity. Here are some clear reasons for team-building set forth by the UDA (Universal Dance Association): build moral, build trust, build flexibility, and reinforce cooperation and creativity. A coach can achieve these by either conducting activities or “games” that directly train skills that induce these results, or as many coaches do, embed such training into regular dance season processes.

Encouraging good relationships is essential to team-building. Karen Christie, coach of Minneapolis Southwest, utilizes “Secret Sisters” a longer running version of the holiday favorite “Secret Santa.” Later in the season, to further bond your team, Kathryn Krause, Lakeville South Dance Coach likes to use “The Web.” A ball of yarn is thrown from dancer to dancer, the first telling something they value about the second. By the time each person is holding four or five pieces of yarn, a huge web has been formed. Two dancers are asked to let go of their strings while everyone watches what happens to the web, you can guess the result. Other group bonding activities suggested by coaches include showing impromptu movies and doing original choreography of short dances in groups.

It follows that exercises in group development discussed above, would also aid communication, the delivery of instruction or critique, two of the objectives achievable through UDA written games. Adding the element of perception can bring about smoother harmony during rehearsals. The goal of these games is to reveal to participants how they perceive situations or even objects differently than others. They are designed to break down preconceived stereotypes.

Remember to debrief so dancers can analyze how to apply game lessons to practices and competitions.

Team Building Ideas from Coaches
Kathryn Krause: Lakeville South Dance Coach
“As far as team bonding activities go, at the end of the season my college dance team would make what we called “the web.” We have a ball of yarn, and you throw it from girl to girl. Each person who throws it has to tell the person they throw it to something they value about them. It can be dance wise, personality, etc. That person then throws to someone else, and so on, and so forth. Our team was usually able to do this for about two hours. Everyone would be holding four or five pieces of the yarn and in the middle of the circle would be a huge web. We would have two people let go and see how it loosened the web. We would then talk about how this web is what makes us a team. Without one or two parts of the web, it is not as strong. Doing this four years in a row is one of my all time favorite college memories.”

Natalie Howlett-Albrecht: Head Coach of the Centennial Dance Team
“I really like to do surprise team bonding. At one of my regularly scheduled practices, I would plan an outing to go see a movie or just spend the entire practice letting the team get to know each other, I really like to give them a song and let them be creative, letting them make up dances that they show at the end of practice. It is really fun to see the interesting things that they come up with.”

Sara Willcutt: Head Coach of the Augsburg College Dance Team and the Ascending Star Dance Team
“I have my team sit in a circle and go around so that everyone has a chance to talk. I ask different questions such as: your favorites, something we don’t know about you, something unique about you, your goals as a dancer, ideas for the team this season, and so on. One of Augsburg’s favorite circle talks is when we say something positive that we admire about the dancer sitting to their right. We go around so everyone can feel good about themselves and see the positives that their team members see in them. Team chants and traditions are an important part of team bonding.”

Karen Christine: Minneapolis Southwest Dance Team Coach and Instructor at the Chanhassen Dance
“Team bonding is so important. Because my team is so close with each other, it makes them perform better! We like to play games like “Monkey in a Tree” with partners, we also do secret sisters. A fun way to do secret sisters is to put everyone’s name on a piece of paper and put it in a balloon and have everyone grab a balloon. They have to sit on it to pop it. They also do pasta parties before competitions to get the carbs in the night before! They watch dance tapes and eat food!”

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Teambuilding Tactics

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by Valerie S. Potsos

“Welcome to your NEW dance team! Now, we are all going to get along and it’s going to be great!”

That’s quite an assumption. As coaches with a new team, we want our dancers to get along. But some of us assume that camaraderie will happen overnight. But, YOU CAN influence how your team will function! It won’t happen magically. Well-planned team building activities will ensure a successful season!

Be proactive. Do NOT wait until there is a conflict to implement team building activities. From your first practice to your last game, it is essential that you use team building as an integral part of your program.

If you are a new team or a veteran team, you need to ask yourself, “What objective do I hope to accomplish with a team building activity?” You also need to ask, “How will I assess their progress?” For example, if you are a new team, Icebreakers and Introduction games are essential. Debrief your Introduction/Icebreaker games by asking, “What did you find out about your members?” “What is something unusual or interesting?” Further, you need to assess whether they seem to feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Or, if you are in the middle of the season, and your team is not getting along, try Perception and Communication games. Communication activities help identify ways that we can improve our interaction skills. How we say something isn’t always how it is interpreted. These types of games can help identify our weak areas. Further, Perception games are generally fun for everyone to use. They are designed to see how participants perceive different situations or objects. Participants learn how to use lateral thinking, to look at things in different ways, and to break down any preconceived stereotypes they might be using.

Group Development games are used to improve the relationship of the individuals and subgroups within the team. You should be aware that when you are conducting Group Development exercises, identification of a conflict or problem between different individuals might become apparent. However, you will be able to solve this problem once it is identified. Debriefing your Group Development activity is crucial so that there isn’t any anger or frustration.

Facilitator or Presentation games help members think about how they instruct a group. These types of games can be especially helpful to your choreographers who are teaching dances or captains who lead warm-ups.

Mid-Course Energizer games are important when the team seems to be losing interest or “going through the motions.” The middle of basketball season or after a competition, these games can get your team recharged and motivated again!

Learning games teach us how to organize our thoughts and ideas. If you have members who are having difficulty memorizing routines, using learning games will test their skills and teach them how to organize their thoughts. These types of games are usually brainteaser type games.

Evaluation exercises are for participants to evaluate either themselves or the program. These are usually used at the end of the year, but can be used throughout the year. As a facilitator, you must make sure that these games are used constructively not destructively.

Self-Management games teach individual group members how to use their time-management and organizational skills. Participants will receive a lot of information and new ideas from other members within the group.

Just as a teacher devises a lesson plan, you must also plan your team building activities. Always debrief with your group. That way, they can analyze what they learned and how they can apply it to practices, games and competitions. (Refer to your UDA Handbook for ideas on how to debrief.)

Remember, not every teambuilding activity is a success. But, you need to keep trying! Find out your team’s personality. What inspires them? Use these observations to plan your activities. Most importantly, your activities should be fun and educational. They can be a great way to break the tension at a tough practice! Good luck and enjoy!

1. To make a point
2. To build team morale
3. To trust each other
4. To become more flexible
5. To reinforce cooperation
6. To reinforce creativity

1. Icebreakers
2. Group Development
3. Communication
4. Facilitator/Presentation Skills
5. Energizer
6. Learning
7. Perception
8. Evaluation
9. Self-Management

(These can be found in your UDA Handbook)
1. CD Cover Design – Introduction Game
2. Team Mission Statement – Group Development
3. Balloon Trolleys – Group Development and Communication
4. The Leadership Puzzle – Learning, Perception, and Group Development
5. Drill Downs – Learning and Self Management

Universal Dance Association
UDA is your best resource for team building games. Call your local rep or ask your staff instructor at camp. UDA will have the latest ideas and games for you at summer camp.

Teambuilding Activities for Every Group – by Alanna Jones
The Big Book of Teambuilding Games – by Edward Scannell
Successful Teambuilding (Baron’s Series) – by Graham Willcocks and Steven Morris

Valerie’s credentials include: UDA Advisor-Trainer, Kimball High School Varsity Dance Coach, Kimball Dance Company Advisor/Director, Motor City All-Star Dance Team, Writer for Dance Spirit, American Cheerleader, and In Motion Magazines, Former Captain of the University of Michigan Dance Team.

If you would like to email Valerie, you can contact her at

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Essential Kit for Competitions and Shows

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Here is a list of an essential kit you should always have with you at competitions, conventions, shows, etc:

  • First aide kit (you can get a kit with everything you need at Target)
  • Bandages and ice packs
  • Make up such as: lip stick, eyeliner, eye shadow, blush, powder, bronzer, and eyelash glue
  • Fake eyelashes
  • Eyelash curler
  • Hair spray
  • Bobbie pins
  • Hairties
  • Hair gel
  • Hairnets
  • Comb and brush
  • Nail polish remover
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Clear nail polish for runs in tights
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Safety pins
  • Tape: regular and double-sided
  • Baby/makeup wipes
  • Feminine products

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Becoming a Better Dance Team Coach

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By Sara Willcutt

The best thing that I have done as a coach is to study dance myself. I have found that taking ballet classes has giving me invaluable tools to teach technique to my dancers.

After I take a class I write down what I learned and work that into my practice plans.

I also take hip hop classes at both dance studios and heath clubs. It’s a great way to get choreographic inspiration and gain a handle on this very popular style of dance.

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