“Everyone’s sitting around the table at one of the dinners and we’re all just talking and having a good time,” said varsity men’s soccer player senior Chris Conn. This is one of his favorite memories of team bonding from his four years of playing soccer with the Highlanders.
With the winter season’s start, hoops and goals are alive once more as the men’s and women’s soccer and basketball teams take on their games. While they refine their skills on the field and court, the teams also have been engaging in team bonding and fundraising activities.
“Every Wednesday we don’t have practice so we usually do some form of team bonding which typically consists of a dinner,” said varsity women’s soccer captain senior Leah Kochendoerfer.
Kochendoerfer said that having the team together in one room allows for a lot of conversation between them, especially when they are sitting next to teammates that they did not initially know very well.
“I think food is a very nice way of bringing people together,” Kochendoerfer said.
On a similar note, varsity men’s basketball player senior Adam Lowe said that what team bonding means to him is the creation of friendships between teammates.
For the men’s basketball team, their first team bonding event began early in their season and the day—a team breakfast on the first Saturday of practice at Crepevine.
“The team breakfast is a tradition,” said varsity men’s basketball player senior Adam Lowe. “We do it every year.”
More recently, the men’s basketball team has also been doing yoga together at the high school dance studio every Saturday since last year.
Varsity women’s basketball player senior Lea Celine Rygg said that if there was a common pattern that could be seen across what her team does for team bonding, it would be food.
“We [as a team] have dinners together, breakfast together,” Rygg said.
Oftentimes, the women’s basketball team comes together for meals after a game, but sometimes they gather before their season begins as well. Some of the places they go to are Fentons and bubble tea.
Conn said that each year, the men’s soccer team holds four or five team dinners every season, usually before a big game at different teammates’ houses and everyone on the team brings something to the meal.
“We also do things like a team barbecue where we get together, bring a bunch of steaks and hamburgers, play some basketball and grill up steaks,” Conn said.
Kochendoerfer, Lowe and Rygg all said that they have experienced the difference that team bonding makes in their teammates interactions.
“I’ve been on the team for four years and I’ve definitely seen a difference in performance on the field with how bonded and connected the team is,” Kochendoerfer said.
During her sophomore year on the team, Kochendoerfer said she thought there wasn’t as much connection between her teammates as there is now. As a result, she felt the relationship between her teammates was not as strong.
As team bonding became a greater focus for the team, she said that she found that her teammates came to really care about each other and fight for each other.
“Even though we weren’t the most technical team, we were still able to succeed from that fight and pride we brought forth in every game,” Kochendoerfer said.
In addition, Rygg said that the women’s basketball team she is with right now is a team that talks through their problems. This is a team trait that makes them work really well together and allows them to perform at a higher level. Had their team not had the team bonding opportunities they shared together, Rygg said that her teammates could have experienced more aggression towards each other instead of directing that aggression towards their opponents.
Lowe said that the benefits of team bonding can be seen when teammates develop a kind of chemistry between each other when they play in practice and games.
Varsity men’s soccer player sophomore Cooper Ford also said that this kind of chemistry between teammates is a very important element in team soccer and that he believes team bonding off the field can help strengthen the younger sophomore soccer players’ sense of chemistry with the team.
“On the field, you cannot want to pass to a player because you don’t know what they’re going to do with the ball or you don’t necessarily know what they are capable of doing,” Ford said. “But off the soccer field when you’re just having a fun time you can easily relax and see what they’re like. It sounds weird, but it can help with knowing what their tendencies are.”
Similarly, fundraising efforts can connect athletes with people and groups outside of their teams.
Rygg said the women’s basketball team has an annual Piedmont Masters Golf Event that marks the beginning of their season. The event hosts anyone that is interested in sponsoring them and allows the sponsors to do so by participating in golfing contests together.
The men’s basketball team has a tradition of hosting an annual wheelchair basketball tournament that hosts disabled kids who play wheelchair basketball with a program called the Bay Area Outreach Program (BORP). Lowe said they use this tournament to fundraise money for the disabled kids and their own program while enjoying a game of wheelchair basketball.
Kochendoerfer and Conn said that instead of relying on fundraising, the men’s and women’s soccer team draw support from their parent community, the high school and programs such as Piedmont Boosters which help the team receive all the funding that they need.
Conn said that this year, the men’s soccer team may be holding an auction for old team equipment on their Senior Night, which is something that they have never done before as far he knows.
“Any team that spends the time together and tries to become better friends and become more like a family not only plays better soccer, but has a better time doing it,” Conn said.