Team building exercises within college sports programs can create chemistry, build trust, and form relationships between coaches and teammates alike. Most programs may take a weekend outside of campus, or possibly even emulate what Shaka Smart does, the head coach of the University of Texas’ men’s basketball team, and use his Navy SEAL training method.
Staying close to home or being like most schools wasn’t what Moira Long had planned. Springfield’s women’s volleyball coach wanted more for her team; she wanted an experience. Long brought possibly the most animated team here on campus to Colorado Springs for the Colorado College Invitational.
Between Sept. 9th and 10th, the women’s volleyball team competed in five matches, going 3-2. This boiled down to a successful weekend, which featured multiple nationally ranked teams. But the focus wasn’t just on winning volleyball matches. Long used this trip as an opportunity to bring her team closer.
“Those moments on the court are really important, but off the court are just as important.” Long harped on the idea of community and family. Sharing experiences outside of the court and Springfield College seemed vital to the success of their team.
“Everybody just gets to know each other a little bit better,” said Long. “And I think it’s those moments in the hotel where there’s laughing and they’re sharing stories about their backgrounds and their lives, which I think just make them a little closer.”
Long’s comments are proven by the way her players practice. Loud roars and cheers can be heard throughout the concourse of Blake Arena, almost as if a conference match was in its third set, tied at one-a-piece. During scrimmages, players dive for balls and execute their post-point routines. Even the players not on the court are keeping track of stats and encouraging their teammates. Players feel comfortable with each other, and Long’s escapes to out-of-region invitational form the bond necessary to have a team operate and succeed this way.
Senior Marnae Mawdsley took the experience as a wake up call to the new season. Noting the six freshmen on the team, Mawdsley said, “We kind of get to see what everyone’s about and see who they are as people.” Spending time in hotels and on the plane instead of the court and on campus gives a different perspective to each player, and shows their true colors.
Mawdsley also discussed how her and other upperclassman assumed their roles as leaders.
“The freshman started to wander away, you had to watch out for each other. We don’t just leave someone behind in the terminal, forget about them in the shuttles we had to take, and we took on our roles looking out for each other.”
For senior Lauren Holt, bus rides were the highlight of the trip. In what was seemingly the dull moment of the getaway, the volleyball team easily made the most of its down time.
Holt explained, “We actually ended up singing a lot of songs, which our team does kind of often. That was really showing what our team is like, we like to have fun even after a big game.” Their playlist included Avril Lavigne, old Miley Cyrus, and Hannah Montana.
This invitational wasn’t just all about team chemistry. Long and her team expected to win, and were excited to face stiff competition.
“Our goal was to get better with every touch of the ball,” preached Long, “Our goal was to go and see what the top level competition was and where we need to improve our game.”
Adding to that, Lauren Holt said, “We’ve definitely shown so far that we can compete with those high level teams and I think we’re just going to get better.”
This year’s women’s volleyball team is hungry for success, and their trip to Colorado College will only help in their quest for a second straight berth to the Division III National Championship tournament.
Harrison Kelly can be reached on Twitter at @H_Kelly19