13 Team Bonding Activities

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Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

By Cathleen Pruden, Swimming World College Intern

Team success is built on team cohesiveness. It often feels as though the coverage of team activities is of the negatives–things like the headline grabbing hazing activities that have resulted in NCAA violations. However, there are many fun, healthy, positive team activities taking place at schools across the country. For team captains or coaches looking for bonding activities, and for readers looking for a reminder of the good in college sports, here is a list of 13 team activities worth trying with your squad.

1. Pumpkin Carving

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Photo Courtesy: Elisabeth Holmes

It’s the perfect festive, fall activity! At Washington and Lee University, the team carves pumpkins with their recruits right before Halloween. The best group claims bragging rights for the year! According to junior, Elisabeth Holmes, “It’s always a lot of fun to be able to use our creativity and bond with potential new teammates.”

2. Scavenger Hunt

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Photo Courtesy: Abby Bergman

Smith College kicks off the season’s bonding with a team scavenger hunt. For added fun this year, “each class year had to wear a swimming item in all the photos (goggles, a suit, snorkel, or a towel),” explained sophomore Abby Bergman. This activity could be a great chance to show freshman some of the hidden special spots on campus.

3. The Amazing Race

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Photo Courtesy: Kiera Molloy

Upping the stakes, on a typical scavenger hunt, the team at Duke University uses an Amazing Race style competition to show recruits around campus. Senior Kiera Molloy explained, “The seniors put together clues and are stationed throughout campus (usually at major points of interest) and the teams have to figure out where the spots are, go there, and complete a task to get their next clue.” Photos are taken to document the journey, and they vote on the best team photos at the end. Swimmers love food, and the Blue Devils come prepared– “Everyone ends up in the same place and there are 70 Cookout milkshakes waiting for us! Hahah, what better motivation, right?” added Molloy.

4. 5K Run

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Photo Courtesy: Huffington Post

Brave swimmers bond by becoming runners for a day. At American University, the team annually competes in a 5K through Georgetown. According to Junior Shannon Scovel, the team has a great time running, but also enjoys “celebrating and taking photos together.” Even better, there is a breakfast and cupcakes, making the running worthwhile. The September event sets a tone of camaraderie for the season ahead.

5. ROTC Workout

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Photo Courtesy: Sawyer Franz

Some teams continue their bonding with even more strenuous physical activity outside the pool. The University of Connecticut team recently joined the ROTC for a workout. Junior Rachel Mulligan reflected, “The workout was extremely physically challenging but it made us closer as a team because we suffered through the pain together and encouraged each other to get through it.”

6. Picnic

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Photo Courtesy: Callie Phillips

Even the most simple activities can bring a team together. At Springfield College, the women’s team gave recruits a chance to get to know the current student-athletes by enjoying pizza on the green outside. For senior Callie Phillips, “it was nice to spend time outside of the pool with the entire girls team.” Mixing things up in the monotony of rushing to a dining hall after practice can be refreshing for any athlete.

7. Connected through Yarn

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Photo Courtesy: Claire Nobles

Small activities can show the power of putting a group of people together. Duquesne University senior Claire Nobles described an activity in which this was the case. One person started holding a ball of yarn, it was tossed to another person, with each teammate holding a strand of yarn before throwing the ball on. Ultimately, every teammate was holding a piece of the giant web. Nobles took a powerful lesson from the activity– “It shows that the team is all intertwined and that we make a giant web of success. If one person lets go, then it all falls apart.”

8. Crafting

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Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

At Mount Holyoke College the captain lead team activities involving lots of crafting. Ranging from painting mason jars, to making snow globes, to creating locker magnets, the low key art activities are a great opportunity for team members to simply chat while exercising their creative sides.

9. Community Service

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Photo Courtesy: Stephen Hollinshead

Bucknell University sophomore Stephen Hollinshead shared that his team “twice a year… goes to a local church to put together and deliver packages of food for those in need in the Lewisburg community.” Every community has countless organizations looking for volunteers, giving teams a number of opportunities to get involved!

10. Tourists for a Day

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Photo Courtesy: Shannon Scovel

At American University, the team’s coaches took advantage of the school’s location in Washington, DC. “Over our Christmas training trip in D.C., we took a trip to National Geographic Museum to see the Spinosaurus exhibit, and we also took vans down to the Capitol Building for a tour. The Capitol Building tour was particularly neat because even though I go to school just a few miles from the National Mall I had never been inside the Capitol,” explained Scovel. You don’t need to be in the nation’s capital to take advantage of outings to local attractions!

11. Haunted House

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Photo Courtesy: Jason Hite

In for a scare? The University of Indianapolis captains arranged for their team to go to a haunted house. Admission to the event was a canned food item which went to the local community in need. Head Coach Jason Hite believes his team’s activities like this, “keeps everyone together and doing positive things. In the end, it’s going to pay off with faster swims and better memories.”

12. Important Objects

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Photo Courtesy: Alexandra van Dorsten

When University of North Carolina Asheville went on a team retreat, each team member brought “some object that was important to us or represented something that was important to us,” explained junior Alexandra van Dorsten. The teammates had the opportunity to explain the object and its significance. Swimmers are, like everybody else, complex people who exist outside the pool. Recognizing this and connecting on this level forms an important support network that lasts beyond a season.

13. Speed Dating

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Photo Courtesy: Olivia Ontjes

One component of the University of Southern California’s full team retreat was “speed dating,” according to freshman Olivia Ontjes. Especially on a large team, even just a few minutes face to face to talk with another swimmer can be an important time to get to know who you will be supporting all season long. These opportunities away from campus allow team members to truly focus on each other.

These are just a few ideas, but there are hundreds of teams around the country having their own fun. Let us know in the comments what your squad is up to!

9 comments

  1. Gregory Paggi

    Abby your team and quote at #2. Good onya!

  2. Elizabeth Barnes

    Callum / Craig fancy any of these ideas for team building? ?

  3. Mark Tate

    Mark Derrick Adam Baratta

  4. Barbara Martins

    Jaimy Taskin lol I think some of the ideas our team had were better

    • Jaimy Taskin

      Partybus is still better than any of those activities! 🙂