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Boys Town Football

Building a Team – The 5 elements every coach should incorporate for successful team building

May 25, 2018     By An Interview with Coach Nizzi, Boys Town Head Football Coach

Competing with Character, Sports, Youth Sports

There is no "I" in TEAM.

Everyone's heard that expression. But what does it really mean?

Coaches, from the youth level all the way up to the pros, have always said a group of individuals working together as one have greater opportunities to be successful.

But as a parent or youth coach, how do you take a group of individuals who may not know each other and mold them into a team?

First, you give a new meaning to the word TEAMTogether Everyone Achieves More!

No. 1 -- Team Building Should be Woven into Everything You Do

Boys Town varsity football coach Chris Nizzi says team building isn't a singular event. It isn't something that just happens after a meeting or a clinic. Instead, Nizzi says, team building has to become a routine; growing into a true team needs to be a philosophy that is followed "Every Minute, Every Day."

"Being part of a team helps many of us achieve more than we ever could alone," Nizzi said.  "The camaraderie often provides us with long and strong relationships forged in shared experiences… that are usually only successful because of the people who worked next to us."

Nizzi said Boys Town football is a particularly unique situation because there's only a short time available to bring together youth who come to Boys Town from across the country. Some have very little experience in organized football. Many are used to looking out just for themselves.

Boys Town social skills become a powerful motivator in a team setting where building relationships is vital, Nizzi said.

"We see team building as simply building relationships. When team members can encourage and praise each other, follow each other's' directions, accept and offer feedback together, and recognize the importance of the person next to them at practice and on the field, we are creating a bond that's necessary for them to be successful on Friday nights, and for the rest of their lives with their families and in their careers." 

Nizzi says it is critical for him and his coaching staff to follow their team-building plan religiously.

"These are big ideas that our coaches need to be attentive to all the time, plan to teach to, and seize moments to reinforce their importance," he said. "Specifically, our athletes constantly hear about how they are serving others on the team while creating their own personal success."

No. 2 -- Like You'd Break Down a Play, Break Down the 'How' of Being a Good Teammate

Nizzi gave a couple examples of what this team building looks like.

"When a football player in the weight room in the summer enthusiastically cheers on his peer, he helps by building up a teammate who can contribute to our or his success," Nizzi said. "We even tell our players what to say:

"Great effort!"


"I'm here for you!"

"You can do this!"

These same encouragement, and intensity, carries over to the practice field. 

Nizzi said a difficult but vital piece to team building is for team members to challenge each other on the truth of their performance, and for team members to respond to the challenge.

"We teach our young men that it is not okay to absolve a teammate of a mistake, but it's also not productive to insult him about it," he said. "Instead, acknowledge it and encourage him to respond productively by telling him, 'Fix it,' "Get it right this time," or "Next snap." That last response is our key phrase, reminding us where our focus needs to be." 

No. 3 -- Take Time for Time Together

Nizzi said team building at Boys Town is on the field and off. He said the coaching staff plans activities for players where they work and play together. After select workouts, the team eats a meal together.

"This time is valuable for relaxing together and continuing to emphasize the same behaviors in a different setting," Nizzi said.

No. 4 -- Celebrate the Process Not Just the Product (Symbolism Matters)

At the end of off-season workouts, the team holds a "Cowboy Roundup." In the Roundup, players break up into teams and compete against each other through several hours of physical and mental challenges.

The Roundup ends by pulling everyone together.

"We run through our campus as one team and then share a meal together," Nizzi said. 

No. 5 -- Like Most Things, Consistency is Key

In all these efforts, the Cowboys' coach said, the key to success is consistency.

"Our daily emphasis on social skills that build relationships and teaching kids to serve others for our shared success hopefully moves 35 young men each year slowly, but inevitably, forward." 

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