Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

Nine Easy Ways to Foster Strong Team Relationships

When it comes to nurturing a positive team environment, preventing cliques and bullying behaviors is essential. Coaches who prioritize building strong team-wide relationships from day one are less likely to encounter social problems, such as cliques, that can harm both the team and individual players. In this article, we will explore expert insights from Nadia Kyba, a TrueSport Expert and social worker specializing in conflict resolution, on how to prevent and address cliques within teams.

Understand the Importance of Team-Wide Relationships

Creating a strong foundation of relationships within the team is just as important as developing athletic skills. According to Kyba, coaches should prioritize relationship-building from the start. Building connections among team members not only enhances performance and athlete retention but also provides a support system for challenging times. Coaches who are proactive in avoiding cliques are more likely to maintain a cohesive and harmonious team.


Recognize the Natural Formation of Cliques

Cliques tend to form naturally when groups of kids who already know each other from school or other activities gravitate towards one another. This is a normal behavior, as it provides a sense of comfort and familiarity. However, it is essential to acknowledge that excluding others can be detrimental to team dynamics. Coaches should intervene when exclusionary behaviors arise among teammates.

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Explain the Importance of Team Dynamic

When addressing cliques, it is crucial to avoid an abrupt separation of close-knit groups, as this may confuse and upset young athletes. Take the time to transparently explain to the team why it is essential to build relationships with everyone, rather than just within smaller groups. By effectively communicating the purpose behind team-wide connections, coaches can help players understand the larger goal and foster a positive team culture.

Foster Inclusivity, Not Punishment

Rather than separating groups based on behavioral issues, coaches should avoid allowing athletes to divide themselves from the beginning. By creating diverse groups from the start, coaches can normalize the idea of working together as a team. This approach avoids the perception of separation solely as a form of punishment, fostering a stronger team dynamic overall.

Vary Group Assignments Regularly

To ensure inclusivity, coaches should intentionally mix up group assignments regularly, even during social activities. If, for instance, the team has a group dinner, encourage athletes to sit with different teammates each time rather than staying solely within their social circles. Coaches may need to assign tables or plan activities that promote interaction and movement among team members.

Building Relationships is a Continuous Process

Team relationship-building is an ongoing process that requires dedication and effort. Kyba shares the example of a hockey coach who has been coaching for 40 years. This coach prioritizes team relationships by assigning lockers weekly, conducting icebreakers at every practice, and even changing carpool arrangements and seating on planes. By continuously mixing up interactions and fostering connections, this coach has achieved remarkable team cohesion and success.

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Engage Parents in the Process

Coaches should involve parents in the team-building process by making them aware of the importance of inclusivity and role modeling positive behavior. Encourage parents to drive athletes they are less familiar with in their carpools, allowing them to get to know other team members. It is essential to acknowledge that parent cliques can be as challenging as athlete cliques, so fostering relationships among parents is equally valuable.

Address Cliques Immediately

When coaches observe the formation of cliques, it is crucial to address the issue promptly. Implement icebreakers, randomize seating arrangements, and change practice teams to break down barriers and encourage interaction. By taking immediate action, coaches can prevent cliques from becoming entrenched and negatively affecting team dynamics.

Encourage Collaboration, Not Just Separation

Separating cliques is a starting point, but it is equally important to foster relationships between all teammates. Coaches should find opportunities for teammates to collaborate outside of competition. For example, creative athletes can work together on the team’s social media accounts, giving them a shared purpose and reinforcing the importance of teamwork beyond the field or court.


Q: How can a coach prevent cliques from forming within a team?
A: Coaches can prevent cliques by focusing on building team-wide relationships from day one. Encouraging diverse groupings, fostering inclusivity, and addressing cliques promptly are effective strategies.

Q: What role do parents play in preventing cliques?
A: Parents can actively participate in the team-building process by fostering relationships with other parents and encouraging their children to interact with different teammates.

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Q: How can coaches address cliques once they’ve formed?
A: Coaches should implement various strategies, such as icebreakers, seat randomization, and changing practice teams, to break down barriers and encourage interaction among all team members.


Preventing cliques is crucial for building a positive team environment and avoiding conflicts within teams. By following the expert advice of TrueSport’s Nadia Kyba, coaches can foster strong team relationships and create an inclusive and supportive atmosphere for all athletes. Learn more about fostering a positive team culture on Alpinetgheep.