by Margaret Amory
Synchronized skating requires many skills, including strength and endurance. Strength and endurance can be obtained through regular physical training. However, synchronized skating also requires the skill of trust, one of the hardest skills to acquire without intentional training. Being able to trust your teammates on the ice, begins with work off the ice. Trust takes time to build which is why teams go to great lengths to bond before the competition season begins. For this article, members of synchro teams skating for their college, provided insight as to what they do to bond as a team to build their team trust. Considering these synchro skaters come from various geographic locations and a variety of teams with their own traditions and diverse skating backgrounds, bonding is important to assure the team develops a deep sense of trust. Ultimately, it is trust that will help them be successful together on and off the ice.
How important is team building?
“Synchronized skating is all about being a cohesive unit,” says Emma Luckman of Miami University’s Collegiate Varsity Synchronized Skating Team. “Being a cohesive unit means teammates should be able to work together. Working together comes naturally when you can be yourself with your teammates. A strong bond is built when you get to know each other, which then creates a powerful dynamic that transfers onto the ice.” For skaters to be able to trust each other on the ice, they need to gain trust off the ice. Team building allows skaters to bond and trust one another so that they can be successful. Maddie Sena from Adrian College’s Senior team says, “When everyone is ‘in sync’, communicating, cooperating, understanding, and supportive, teams have a lot more success. Team building is a way to develop and cultivate these aspects within a team.”
How often do you do team building activities?
Synchronized skating coaches often schedule lots of on-ice time for their teams, but it is important that they also schedule time away from the ice for the skaters to connect. Ally Hawkins, a skater for the University of Michigan Collegiate team, states “I would say once every two weeks at least the team gets together in some form off the ice and I can honestly say that those times are some of my favorite moments of our season thus far.” This team building has helped UMSST bond even though they are from all different teams and parts of the country.
What are some of your favorite team building activities?
There are a great range of activities that could help team members bond, but a few skaters from different colleges shared their favorite activities. These activities all were unique and personal to each team and really focused on including everyone into the greater whole of the team:
- Emma Luckman (Miami University): “In the beginning of the year, in August after tryouts, we went to a high ropes course near campus. This was by far my favorite team bonding activity yet. We did this right after forming teams, so for some there were many new faces to get to know better! Recently for the holiday season during our winter training, we did Secret Skater. We all met at a teammate’s house after practice, drank hot chocolate and exchanged gifts. We ended this activity with going around the room and saying what it means to be a part of Miami Skating to us. It was amazing to hear everyone’s perspectives and truly brought us together. Another favorite of mine is the weekly routine we have in the locker room before practices. On Mondays one person has the job of bringing in a motivational quote to write on the whiteboard and think about for that week coming up. On Friday, one person is awarded for being that week’s MVP. Both activities, as well as daily goals, bond us so we can come together and skate as a unit. Another super fun activity was when all 52 of us came together to do a skating-family bake off! Each family of skaters baked a treat, and we all brought them to a teammate’s house and let a panel of teammate judges decide who’s was the best! Last but certainly not least was in October, we all participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure in Cincinnati, Ohio. This was an amazing experience that not only allowed us to run on behalf of Miami Skating, but also on behalf of our loved ones who are affected by Breast Cancer.”
- Ally Hawkins (University of Michigan): “One of my most favorite activities that we did recently was the night before one of our competitions we sat in a circle and all wrote our name on a piece of paper. We then passed that paper around the circle and everyone wrote an anonymous compliment about that person on the paper so that at the end of the night you had a piece of paper with 20 nice things about you and your contribution to the team. I think this really boosted our team morale and also showed the team how much we care about each person and how much we value each individual. Another fun activity that we did was have a potluck dinner together before we all went home for the holidays. Our team loves to eat so we all made/bought something to eat and brought it to the dinner. Simply hanging out with the team after finals and having a relaxing and fun meal together was a good way to stay connected before our two week break.”
- Maddie Sena (Adrian College): “My favorite team building activity that we have done for the past few years is writing anonymous notes to each of our teammates. We sit down and write about the qualities that we appreciate in each other and later in the season our coaches give us each an envelope with all of the notes. I like it the best because it makes us realize what is so special not just about ourselves but about each other which creates appreciation and respect.”
What activities would you like to see implemented?
The coaches are a huge part of the team; they are the ones that decide music, choreograph programs, and help design dresses. However, they are sometimes too busy with these tasks that they can get overwhelmed and have time to come up with new, creative team bonding activities. When Maddie, Ally, and Emma were asked which activities they wanted to see implemented, they came up with similar responses; get to know your teammates. Whether your team has been best friends for years, or you are from opposite sides of the country, it is important to get to know who you will be skating with for the upcoming season.
Maddie wanted coaches to know that it is important for skaters to connect in the beginning of the season so that they can grow together as the season progresses and become the greatest team they can. Maddie says, “It can be difficult to figure out how to work together when you’re just meeting some of your teammates and skating with them for the first time.” Learning more about your teammates in the beginning of the season can allow people to create bonds thus allowing them to only strengthen throughout the season. Emma says, “Skaters should think about what their team needs most.” Creating activities that correlate to the needs of the athletes is probably one of the most important things. Skaters who seem to need work on trust-building may work on a ropes course, whereas a team that is from all different backgrounds may need a game night to talk to learn more about each other. Similarly, Ally says that teammates need to be in sync on and off the ice, and this will help them reach their season goals. She shared “What really matters in the end is the experience, not the medal.Teams focus on results, but to reach that prestige, teams need to work together and be in sync off-ice so that on the ice, they work together to have a great skate.”
What should coaches know about team building for their teams?
The answer stated by all of the skaters was that team bonding is important and a critical part of the season. For teams to succeed, the skaters first have to be a team. Although, Emma states something that has yet to be highly recognized. “Coaches are a vital part of a synchronized skating team, and should get to know their skaters just as their team gets to know each other.” Not only emphasizing the fact that a team could be nowhere without a coach, but also showing that a team consists of everyone that helps it reach its peak, this statement exhibits the importance of a coach and/or coaches and how their interactions with their skaters have impact. Synchronized skating is about relationships. Fostering positive relationships and developing close bonds with all members of the team is what helps make the sport of synchro so unique and ensure that as a TEAM, Together Everyone Achieves More!