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Bird Brown: Now, more than ever, team bonding is essential

Trying to adjust to the new normal that is quarantine time has been quite the challenge.

The front-line workers and other essential employees have taken on the virus and its accompanying chaos since it reared its ugly head 6-8 weeks ago. They’ve had to roll up their sleeves and jump right in to the fire.

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Others have had their lives turned upside down either through layoffs, furloughs, or losing their job because the business they worked for had to close its doors. Trying to find a part-time job to tide things over is virtually impossible, unless you put yourself in a compromising position on the front lines.

And then there’s those of us that are working through the new reality of distance working or learning, finding new ways to connect to our fellow workers or students within the new reality that is social distancing. Moving our classes online through Google Classroom, or some that use Blackboard at the college level, has been a little bumpy, but we’re all working our way through things.

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One of the positive by-products is that people have found a way to continue to make their human-to-human connections through video conferencing, using software applications like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.  

We hold faculty meetings through Teams, my wife’s company and its employees use Skype to stay connected from their homes, and the new craze of friends and family is to create a chat room through Zoom.

I was lucky enough to be invited to and join a Zoom chat this weekend with all of the girls and coaches from our lacrosse program. It was really cool to sit in front of my computer screen with more than 20 participants talking about how crazy life has become and if our Easter plans had changed much due to the lockdown.

You don’t realize how much you miss that interaction until you have it yanked out from under you with little to no warning. I was only a small part of the team for a few short weeks so I can only imagine with it’s like for our seniors, the players that have played together for so long, and the coaches that have spent their year preparing for the season.

One of the ways that our coach has helped to keep the girls connected as we wait for the season to resume (wishful thinking) is to organize a TikTok tournament, where the players submitted their own personal video clips and went through a voting selection process with the winner being decided Monday night.

The result has been hours full of entertainment and personal connections between the players and coaches.

It all started when our girls worked together to create a video showing their connection by catching the ball coming in from off camera to one side, cradling the ball in their stick or doing a trick, then tossing the ball off camera to their next teammate as the cycle continues. I’ve seen this done by teams at local soccer teams from Celtic and Central Carroll, South Carroll and McDaniel softball teams, and Attitude basketball, all showing off their skills.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few that did the same.

There are other ways in which coaches and players are finding a way to make connections. A local club lacrosse coach is continuing to run practices for his boys team utilizing Zoom technology as he provides instruction and gives the players the opportunity to work on their skill on their own before reporting back and demonstrating their progress through video review with their coaches and peers.

Our club has entered in to a contract with an online soccer training program and provided the service for free to our members during this stay-at-home order. Players can log on every day and work on the skills demonstrated in the video. The program tracks the data and provides the team and coaches a summary of the participants and their time involved each week. We also have a different competition with a club rival where players from each club compete in physical contests like wall sits and planks.

Our club, like many others, is providing free coaching video classes and online group meetings to discuss ways in which we can continue to work with our players during these crazy times.

Coaches associations are also opening up their online classes for free in their respective sports. And private coaches, like Baltimore Blast goalie William Valenza, have put together videos for athletes to continue to hone their skills while stuck at home, using things we all have around the house.

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Whatever it is that you and your team do to keep that connection going through Corona 2020, whether it’s making a video, talking online or creating team contests and whether that team developed from a sport, workmates, or just a group of friends, make sure you keep it going as we all figure out our new normal.

Author Idowu Koyenikan once wrote about team bonding in his book “All You Need is a Ball,” and said “He who masters the power formed by a group of people working together has within his grasp one of the greatest powers known to man.”

If you can create a team bond through this mess, think where it can take you when the smoke clears and we get released back in to the world.

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