One of the most effective methods of building trust, according to Paul J. Zak, who published a 10-year-long research study in the Harvard Business Review, is arguably the most uncomfortable: Be vulnerable.
As a coach or a player – or an employee or employer off the volleyball court – showing vulnerability stimulates the release of oxytocin, which can effectively be labeled the “trust hormone.”
“Leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things,” Zak wrote. “My research team has found that this stimulates oxytocin production in others, increasing their trust and cooperation. Asking for help is a sign of a secure leader—one who engages everyone to reach goals. Jim Whitehurst, CEO of open-source software maker Red Hat, has said, ‘I found that being very open about the things I did not know actually had the opposite effect than I would have thought. It helped me build credibility.’ Asking for help is effective because it taps into the natural human impulse to cooperate with others.”
The Volleyball1on1 Coaching System was developed on the belief that team dynamics and chemistry are critical aspects of any successful team, and the foundation of an excellent team dynamic is trust. (See our articles on the five dysfunctions of a team.)
We believe that trust is built most effectively by creating an environment where players and coaches can be vulnerable in front of one another. Zak’s research validates this belief, and our teachings.
Just as a coach works on skills, offensive and defensive strategy, and player communication, that same work, effort, and time needs to be invested in the development of trust and team-building.
Simple exercises and habits in practices include:
- Team Building Trust Building Games
Name Game (Video Example)
- Human Knot
- Mine Sweeper
- Barnyard Round Up
- People Meeting People
- Line-Up Games
- Asking for help
- How do you think we could do it better?
- How do you think I could do it better?
- Asking for feedback
- What would you like to do in practice?
- What do you need as a player?
- What do you guys need as a team?
- Admitting Mistakes
- Admit mistakes as a coach after a match, during practice or after a drill.
Descriptions of some of the exercises listed above:
Equipment Required: None
Space Required: Small. Indoors or outdoors.
Group Size: 8 to 12 ideally. You must have at least 4 participants to play.
Total Time: 20-30 minutes
5 minutes to brief and set up
10-20 minutes to achieve outcome
5 minutes to review and debrief
Get the group to form a circle.
Tell them to put their right hand up in the air, and then grab the hand of someone across the circle from them.
Repeat this with the left hand, ensuring they grab a different person’s hand.
Check to make sure that everyone is holding the hands of two different people, and that they are not holding hands with someone either side of them.
Now, they must attempt to untangle themselves to form a circle without breaking the chain of hands. Allocate a specific time to complete this challenge (generally 10-20 minutes).
Get participants to take their time in order to limit injuries. Ask the group to not tug or pull on each other and spot participants as they pass over other participants. Monitor throughout the challenge and stop them if you need to.
If the chain of hands is broken at any point, they must then start over again.
Equipment: Small Square Platform (low jump boxes work great!)
Group Size: 10-16
Total Time 20-30 Minutes
Place the Platform in the middle of the group.
Tell the participants that the object of this activity is to get your entire group on top of the platform long enough to count to 10.
Remind participants that everyone must be off the ground (no getting on shoulders of others, and no dog piling).
Tell participants to think outside the box.
If any participant comes off the platform or a foot touches, they must start again.
Equipment: Volleyballs, tennis balls, dome cones, blindfolds if wanted. (Any object that you have a lot of that can be put on the ground)
Group Size: Any
Space: Volleyball Court
The object of this activity is to work on teamwork, trust, and effective communication. Spread out the equipment randomly over the designated area. Have participants get with a partner. One partner will be blindfolded while the other partner is going to be the caller and eyes.
The blindfolded partner will stand at one end of the court and use their voice with effective communication to successfully navigate from one end of the designated area to the other side without stepping on or touching any of the equipment (landmines). If the blindfolded partner touches the equipment, they must go back and start again. Once one partner has successfully guided their partner through the area, they will switch roles and complete the course again.
BARNYARD ROUND UP
This is a great activity for getting teams into random groups.
Group Size: Any
For this activity, you will have all participants get into a circle. Explain that they will be getting into random groups. All participants will stand in a circle, put their heads down, and close their eyes. The instructor is going to choose several animals, one for each group. The coaches will then walk around and whisper an animal randomly into the participant’s ear. Once all participants have been given an animal, the coach will yell “GO!” Participants, while keeping their eyes closed, must make their given animals noise, and find the rest of their group mates who are the same animals. At the end of the activity all participants should be with their groups.
PEOPLE MEETING PEOPLE
Group Size: Any
Space: Gym or open outdoor space
This is a great icebreaker game for newly formed teams or large groups of new players. In this activity, participants are going be meeting new people, or learning new things about familiar friends. This is a great way for your players to learn about their teammates and coaches, in a relaxed, fun environment.
Players will stand around in a group. When the coach says the phrase “People meeting People,” all players will move to find a partner they’ve never met or don’t know much about. Once all players have a partner, the coach will then give an open-ended question for players to discuss with their new partner. For example, “Introduce yourself to your partner, and tell them your favourite movie.” After you have given players time to discuss with their partner, the coach is going to call out random body parts. The goal for the players is to make contact with their body parts and don’t lose contact until you switch partners. For example, “finger to finger, knee to knee, or elbow to elbow. After you have called out the body parts, the coach will call “People meeting people” again, and players will find a new partner, and the activity goes again.
**Be creative with body parts, but be respectful**
Continue activity until you feel like players have met several new people and learned new things about their team. This activity can be used several times throughout the season, to help build trust.
We have more examples listed in our Volleyball1on1 Coaching Manuals that we include at all camps.