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Elite Athletes and Team Building

The aim of any good coach these days is to get his/her team to perform to its maximum using effective communication skills on and off the field of play. More and more elite athletes are being engaged in specific activities aimed at 

  • improving self esteem 
  • building confidence 
  • preparation for leadership 
  • greater focus on teamwork and respect 
  • reaching for excellence 

What this kind of exercise does is help the team including management create a high performance team. One should understand that teams which engage in these types of activities are gearing towards the ‘competitive edge’ which usually is what creates the winning formula. 

The Australian Sport Commission has used this “Team Building” as a tool for teams. Their aim is to make swimming Australia’s leading sport through increased participation, continual outstanding performances and commercial excellence.’ , current National Youth Coach and the Head Coach for the Athens Olympic Team works to develop athletes and coaches so they can compete at top international levels. The coach at the time, Leigh Nugent, said “every athlete is an individual with unique motivations; so one single style of communication isn’t effective for all athletes. To elicit the best performance from each individual, a coach needs to understand how to communicate most effectively. Yet equally, athletes need to support themselves and their teammates with appropriate behaviours.”

Nugent continued to say that what is key though is “if you can’t create a new awareness in individuals, you can’t create a change in the team. From a team perspective the Life Performance techniques and concepts have created more harmonious teams that have performed at a higher level, increased respect for each other and their individual differences and maintained a far more co-operative environment.”

The Everest Academy, also from Australia talks about the role of team building for Elite Athletes – this programme is in a high altitude environment and takes athletes out of their comfort zones and places them in a situation which encourages leadership, respect, teamwork, responsibility and excellence. 

While Elite Athletes and Team Building seem like an unlikely relationship, both require competition which are required for determining a winner. Performance intelligence is a new catch phrase and describes the phases completed at team building sessions. 

The efforts made by organisations to coordinate team building activities are set up for medium and long term goals and are by no means quick fixes. While the team may benefit initially from coming together, the results are usually more noticeable over an extended period of time. 

Team building is a way to quickly cut through the pretense and get players communicating with each other on a deeper level. Players that know each other like the back of their own hands can operate more cohesively and provide the support each player needs when things get tough. A team that has identified common goals and works together to achieve them is always stronger than a team that has never done so. 

The Janssen Sports Leadership Center offers coaches, athletes, and athletic administrators a variety of resources on leadership, team building, mental toughness, and coaching. Here’s an overview of all our resources. Here is a link for material this center has developed

The team that finds the time to effectively communicate with each, stands a better chance of winning in the ‘end’ – the team and management just have to focus. 

Teams/Franchises that have used team building successfully include San Francisco Giants, Miami Heat, all elite teams in New Zealand – rugby, football, cricket and so many others. 

The West Indies team stopped in Florida on their way to India

It can be a worthwhile investment in an organisation’s biggest assets – its athletes. 



A sport aficionado who writes, researches and presents on everything sport. A second book is out to prove her work's reach. She reads in her spare time.

One thought on “Elite Athletes and Team Building

  1. Carole – this is SO important. Elite athletes by definition are very competitive and driven to excel. More and more, in the age of the celebrity athlete, it’s individual performance that is heralded. Yet, in team sports such as cricket, what good is an elite athlete without a high performing team? And how do you get them all working together as ONE when they are used to being competitive and better than everyone else? Team building. And you can’t leave it to chance, or only on the field when they are under pressure, it must be done off the field when the players have a chance to relax, reflect and learn from their experiences. And of course, it’s not a one-off exercise!

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