As the Commonwealth Games of 2014 come to a close in Glasgow, there have been some truly impressive team building activities on show. Athletes from a variety of sports have worked together and only been able to make it to the medal podium with the help of the team around them.
Although you might look at obvious sports like hockey, netball or rugby as elite team building activities, we wanted to look at three less obvious team sports that have generated some interest and discussion on the power of team building.
Athletics: 4 x 100 Metres Relay
The power behind the 100m relay is that it requires the four team members do a basic task – run the 100 metres very quickly, but with an added twist – the passing of a baton. A simple enough task but very different from just sprinting across a line at full speed, or starting out of the blocks. This is a fantastic team event to watch, especially when the fastest man in the world is involved. But even Usain Bolt has to rely on his team mates to put him in a winning position, and also play his part in the team by starting his run and collecting the batten seamlessly, knowing that the baton will be placed in his outstretched hand without even having to look behind. Trust and co-ordination, two classic elements to building a strong team.
Diving – Synchronised 3m Springboard
To be successful at syncronised diving you need to be absolutely in tune with your partner. So much so that you will need to adapt your style to a pattern you both understand, sacrificing any self expression to achieve a standardised format. This event is all about synchronisation – mirroring your partner’s twists, turns and tumbles as closely as possible. The harder the routine the more difficult the synchronisation and the decision making. Team tactics have to be agreed – to go for a difficult routine with more points potential or play safe and consolidate. The team chemistry will be vital here, knowing one another’s strengths and weaknesses and having confidence in the team decisions.
Reaching this level will have been the result of hours of training, practice and repetition ensuring that one diver totally understands the other without any communication issues. Being able to synchronise with somebody else in something as complex as diving will have been the result of some very powerful team building activities.
Cycling – Road Race
Cycling is probably the ultimate endurance sport but it takes a team effort to create a winner. In the case of the Women’s Road Race it required the English team, and Emma Pooley in particular, to sacrifice a gold medal to make Lizzie Armitstead the Commonwealth Champion.
Armitstead had her England team-mates to police any breakaways by her competitors while also increasing the race tempo as she stayed protected with an easier ride within the peliton. By the fifth of the seven laps of the Glasgow course only seven women remained in the leading group. Among them was Armitstead’s team mate, Emma Pooley, who attacked on the sixth lap, pulling 100m clear of the field and taking Armitstead with her and into a gold medal position.
As well as teamwork, the team cyclists must be able to intricately understand the road, the rules and the competition, as well as having faith in the chosen team member who will race for gold when the right moment comes. If you are the chosen one this must also create its own pressures with the success of the team riding on your shoulders.
Road racing is an event where the team works together for the success of one individual. But unlike the 4 x 100, synchronised diving, and many other team events, there is only one winner. The medals are not shared among the team and just the one cyclist stands on the podium.
So what can we learn from this?
There are bound to be parallels to be drawn in the world of work and I’m sure there are occasions in every business where one or all of these have an equivalent. But it’s finding the team building activities that bond the team members that will determine its success . . . or otherwise.