Connecting online has been the standard we’ve grown accustomed to engaging with our teams for just about a year. Even when we return to in-person practices and other forms of team interactions of old, the video conferencing and hangout platforms will still serve as a popular and practical means to check-in with each other. As we have seen since March 2020, Ontario volleyball Clubs have adapted to this technology, modifying their communications around it to keep their team culture stronger than ever and ensuring that athletes are furthering their knowledge and enjoyment of volleyball.
Team skill and fitness challenges have been issued internally, then across Clubs, progressing to other Clubs and then across regions. A myriad of activities was put into action such as game nights, guest speakers sparking conversations on multiple facets of the game and team bonding exercises which have brought the players and coaches closer. These activities continue to drive youth sports engagement.
After nearly 12 months of weekly (or maybe twice-weekly) calls, however; has a plateau been reached? Are athletes continually engaged with team meetings and additional activities or has the lustre of these platforms worn off? Outside of virtual team practices and workouts, here are supplementary options that can be explored to encourage engagement among athletes.
It might sound like sacrilege but perhaps many athletes are being saturated with too much volleyball information, which given at a time when no one can play, could harbour negative sentiments or possibly detachment towards the sport. An option could be to emphasize the interests (other than volleyball, of course) of your athletes and incorporating them into hangouts or social media challenges. For instance, if there are hidden talents that athletes are willing to share (perhaps your setter is the next Mozart or the outside hitter can whip up a breakfast that would leave Gordon Ramsay speechless), maybe a team talent show or showcase on your next Zoom call or team social media channels can provide some levity and encourage others to participate.
On the same coin, challenging athletes to try something new such as a food, exercise or leisure activity could be implemented similarly – make it more about them than the sport.
Does an athlete on your team play another sport or are there mutual friends from another Provincial Sport Organization affiliated team, like basketball, ringette, or soccer? In the Ontario sports world, we’re all going through similar situations; why not check in with your fellow athletes of a different cloth to see how they are navigating the circumstances. Perhaps some friendly competition between two team sports can take place in a digital space that can permeate across the sports spectrum.
The creativity demonstrated by Clubs in their initiatives to maintain team contact have been tremendous and as we progress day-by-day through 2021 that creativity will have to be upheld. Now’s the time for Clubs utilize their social media and digital platforms to ignite engagement and connection with their sport and members.
What are some activities that are keeping your athletes engaged? Let us know by posting a comment at the end of this article!