Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea! Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast where we talk about mindset, motivation, and resilience in dance. Today, we’re gonna talk about team bonding and building that strong social culture for your dancers, but it’s more than social. Did you know there are two types of team bonding? Well, there are, and as coaches and teachers, we tend to only focus on one of the two, and it comes back to bite us later in the season.
Right now as I’m recording this it’s May, and as we head into summer, that’s usually the time many teams are coming together. We’re getting to know each other, and that can be school teams who are starting off earlier in the summer or studios who get together late in the summer, but either way, this is a time where there’s usually some intentional focus on that team bonding. However, I feel like the term gets thrown around a lot. There’s team building. There’s team bonding. But we don't always know exactly what to do, even why. We just know we’re supposed to or we’re not sure how to help our team bond and connect effectively. So, I decided to make a little series about this.
So, this is part one of a three-part series on team bonding, and in this first episode, I’m gonna talk about what team bonding really is and clarify these two different types of team bonding so that you can make sure you aren't focused on one while ignoring the other because we need to have both!
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and dance team coach turned sport psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
[Motivational Intro Music]
The Real Purpose of Team Bonding – 1:59
So, before we go into the two kinds, let’s talk about the real purpose of team bonding, and not just something we’re supposed to do, but we want our dancers to get to know each other. We want them to like each other or at least respect each other. We want them to understand each other and feel that sense of connection and belonging. Belonging is a really important part of motivation, and that comes from this level of connection. So, no, they're not all gonna be best friends, but it’s about finding that common ground so there’s mutual respect and care, and if everyone is included and belongs, that’s gonna have huge benefits all year.
I know many coaches believe that if dancers spend time together, both in and out of practice, they will bond. Maybe it takes time, but over the summer they get to know each other purely by spending that time together, but here’s the truth. If you're not strategic about it, your team bonding will stay very surface level, and unless you encourage the dancers to learn to truly trust each other, they won't be able to get in the trenches and work together when it matters most later in the season.
As I said, bonding isn't just about liking each other, and yes, I always hope they like each other, but that’s not really the goal. I think the real purpose and the goal of team bonding is to learn about communication. Truly bonding as a team is about understanding differences, learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, understanding each other’s motivations, and finding common ground. When team bonding focuses on learning how to communicate with each other, you’ll see those long-term benefits. They will be able to better talk through disagreements, support each other when there are mistakes, and develop a genuine care. Even if they don't always like each other, they're gonna get to know each other and be able to talk through their differences rather than letting those differences destroy their bond. As every coach knows, they don't always like each other, so they need to figure out how to communicate effectively.
Establishing Social Cohesion – 3:57
So, along the lines of communication and building that bond this summer, as I said, there are two types of connection that we research and teach in sport psychology that I want to share with you. They're referred to as cohesion, which is just another word for unity or connection. The two types of cohesion are social cohesion and task cohesion, and your bonding efforts this summer should include both.
Most of us focus on the social cohesion or, again, just getting along and enjoying your time together. It’s how much they like each other’s company. So, if there is high social cohesion, they have that social bond and connection and feel united as a team socially. So, doing outside bonding events that aren't about dance usually help with this type of cohesion. It’s anything that helps them get to know each other outside of sport and helps them build a genuine connection. They can, then, let their guard down a little bit and learn about the people on their team.
That’s the most common type of bonding especially in the summer, whether it’s spending time outside together, doing fundraisers, going out for ice cream. All of those kinds of social events are great, but most coaches don't spend as much time intentionally cultivating the task cohesion. So, that’s the one that makes the biggest difference later in the season.
Establishing Task Cohesion – 5:25
So, task cohesion is how much your athletes are able to work together to achieve a common goal. So, they feel cohesion around a specific task. That’s obviously huge if you have big goals for your season around competitions and performances. We want our dancers to be united and able to come together in order to achieve those big goals all season.
So, establishing task cohesion should be intentional too. Give your dancers small tasks to do together, small problems to solve. Let them work it out. When they have to put aside differences, egos might need to be checked, and you can’t leave anyone behind, so it’s a great lesson for the larger goal of the season, to be able to perform your solid routines together.
The Line-Up Game – 6:13
For example, there are lots of games out there that are really about problem solving. Those are the ones you want to spend some time on, and one example is the line-up game. I don't have a better name for it. It’s just the line-up game when we would always play it, where you have them line up in some order as fast as they can. And you can go anywhere with this like line up by the first letter of the street you live on or the day of your birth, ignoring the month and year. You can, then, just keep changing it up so that you're challenging their communication skills. So, maybe only new members of the team can talk or half of them are blindfolded or only the seniors can see but they can't talk, just different ways to challenge them to work together, and then notice how their behavior leads to success or not and help them talk through it. After these challenges, have that little debrief. “What went well? Was that really easy? What made it more or less successful?” If they can solve problems together, they will build that task cohesion, and then they believe they can work together to achieve those bigger, important dance goals that they have in common.
Again, I think this is really common in school settings, but I grew up all studio too, and I can tell you, studio world, this is just as valuable. We don't always spend a lot of time on this kind of cohesion aspect in studios. We just assume you're gonna spend every waking moment together, they’ll figure it out. But that’s usually all the social cohesion. So, that’s great, but I encourage you to consider this task cohesion as well.
So, summarizing up part one for today, I want to reiterate that cohesion is that bond between the dancers on your teams, and there are two types: social cohesion (where they like each other and they enjoy each other’s company) and task cohesion (where they know how to come together to achieve a common goal).
So, this summer, I encourage you to make your team bonding efforts more than just get to know you, but actually talking and communicating with each other. Anything you can do to improve communication between your dancers will help them bond at a deeper level, both socially and around their goals, which will help them achieve those goals all year. In my work with dancers, I see how communication and bonding are really part of a circular process. Better communication on task and social issues increases cohesion, and the more cohesion and unity groups have increases their communication. So, the more you can build that positive cycle early in your season the better, and then it’ll be there for you when it’s crunch time around recitals, competitions, and nationals.
Task Cohesion Free Download – 8:57
To set your dancers up for success, work now to build that foundation of good communication, care for one another, and that belief in your ability to come together. I, of course, have some ideas for you. If you’d like more specifics on exactly the kinds of games you can play, especially around task cohesion, I have a free download that’ll help with that, and I know many of us are always looking for new and different ideas. This download has 15 different ideas. It covers games for communication specifically, games that are there to help get to know you, and games that are just for fun because we’ve got to remember that part too. The link is in the show notes, and you can go to the website for this episode www.chelseapierotti.com/108.
Of course, I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email or a DM on Instagram with your favorite team-building ideas, and I'll share all that I get together. If you have a fellow dance teacher who you think would really benefit from this, please share it with them. We all are here to support each other, and word of mouth is still the best way for this amazing community to grow, and I would love to reach as many dancers and dance teachers that this can help as possible. So, I really appreciate your support. When you share it with a friend, it helps our whole community. So, keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
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Join My Email List – 10:43
Hi, dance coaches and teachers! If you are a dance educator, it’s important to make sure you are on my email list. It’s only for educators. It’s where I keep you all updated on my Mental Skills Workshops, the Relevé Membership, and even some special trainings coming up that are only available inside the membership. My email list is where I provide extra resources for dance educators and tips to help you and support you through this teaching journey.
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So, here’s how to get on. You go to www.chelseapierotti.com/email and sign up. There’s a link in the show notes to the episode as well, and again, that’s where I’ll announce special opportunities like the one coming up soon that’s only available inside Relevé. But mostly, it’s where I provide more support and resources to help you with your dancers. So, go join in at www.chelseapierotti.com/email, and let’s work together and make a more positive impact on our dance industry!