For sports teams, strengthening friendship ties pays off

June 6, 2019 — by Kaylene Morrison

During an overnight stay in Santa Cruz after a game over the weekend of April 27-28, the varsity girls softball team engaged in a lighthearted mock trial directed by their coach, US Government and MAP teacher Mike Davey, who thought that the overnight trip was a good opportunity to bring back an old baseball tradition in which team members are put on trial for trivial reasons.

Freshman Erin Wu, who earlier in the trip had mocked the seniors in a cheeky, playful way, was one of the alleged criminals who was put on trial. In order to simulate a real trial as closely as possible, Wu was provided with a defendant and a plaintiff, other team members acted as members of the jury, and senior Ruhi Christie received the role of the judge.

In the end, Wu was convicted of “sassing the seniors” and was sentenced to a harsh punishment of being forced to bake cupcakes for the entire team.

Though team bonding traditions such as this may initially appear to have the sole purpose of allowing sports players to relax and have fun, another less obvious purpose is that these get togethers allow team members to form new friendships and gain mutual respect and trust for each other, which can greatly improve a sports team’s performance.

This year, team bonding events for the boys and girls lacrosse teams occurred mainly at monthly team dinners at restaurants like Jakes of Saratoga, Chipotle, Panda Express, on campus and at various players’ homes.

“With the school curriculum and having so many extra curricular activities, that seemed to be the best way to get everyone together,” varsity lacrosse coach Trey Freeman said.

In addition to team dinners, the members of the lacrosse teams participated in a secret buddy gift exchange, which allowed the younger players to get to know the older players and visa versa. Planning senior day had a similar effect on the teams.

“Everybody has to voice their opinions so we are able to get to know the seniors as well as other players because without the relationship you wouldn’t really have a senior day that’s thoughtful,” varsity midfield player junior Julia Yoo said.

According to Yoo, getting to know the other players has allowed her to feel more at ease while out on the field.

“I know my teammates always have my back if I’m tired or if I passed them a ball and like during transitions I could always count on them,” she said.

Team bonding also helps improve the performance of those who take part in seemingly individual sports.

The track team does not participate in team bonding as a whole due to the size of the team, but the hundred-athlete-strong team attends a banquet together at the end of the season. However, each group per category of event such as the distance runners, the throwing team, and the sprinters have team bonding together throughout the season.

Over spring break, for instance, the distance team spent a day at National Bridges State Beach. From 8:30 a.m. to around 1: p.m., the runners ran from the beach to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, ran back to the beach, and spent their remaining time relaxing at National Bridges.

In addition to this outing, members of the distance team have also hosted potluck dinners at their houses.

Distance runner junior Sanjana Reddy feels that events such as these have helped her succeed because she feels that adrenaline rushes that arise during her races are heightened by the knowledge that her team members are praying for her to win.

“It really helps to have everyone cheering you on, and team bonding helps with that because it makes sure everyone knows other people on the team,” she said. “Everyone becomes friends that way.”

Varsity softball player junior Ella Parr recognizes the particular importance of team bonding in her sport because of the team coordination that is required for preventing base runners from scoring points.

“Communication is such a key piece in softball, that if you don’t feel comfortable with your teammates, the whole system lacks it,” she said. “With our team being so spread out grade wise, bonding is important in uniting those cliques to form a strong team.”



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