Youth sports coaches are always looking for fun ice-breakers to help build relationships among new teammates and their parents. I've suggested several through the years -- let the kids play on the playground before practice, host a barbecue or go out for ice cream -- but a new idea came to mind last week when I became involved in helping organize a local 5-kilometer run/walk.
Having your team participate together at a local 5K run/walk fundraiser is a great way to bring everyone together -- kids, parents and siblings -- in a non-stressful atmosphere to get to know one another away from the field.
Sure, you can also justify it as a fitness activity for your team, but the more important thing to focus on is making sure kids who don't know each other get a chance to walk the course together and that the parents do the same.
Too often, even during ice-breakers, the same kids who already know each other tend to gravitate toward one another. It's only natural, and in fact, it's what most parents do.
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When I'm not coaching the team, I always try to be the parent who goes out of his way to meet the new parents -- new to the team, the league or even the town -- and make sure I introduce them to the other ones. And I always encouraged my son to do the same with his teammates.
And most likely the same will need to happen during the walk. You might want to even consider making sure players and parents who don't know each other are paired together at the start of the event. You can even go as far as "assigning" partners and suggesting things to find out about the other person.
Since most of these run/walks support a local charity, you can also remind the players they are not just participating for fun and exercise, but also to support an important local nonprofit.
If you've been involved in youth sports before, you know one of the best outcomes of a season is meeting new friends and creating relationships that will last beyond the final horn. It all begins at the beginning of the season, and the right ice-breaker just speeds up the process.
Contact Jon Buzby at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.