Often modern day coaches are criticized for what some people consider outdated training methods. However, championship teams and greatness has always existed in sports, dating back to the times of ancient civilizations, the Roman gladiators, and even street ball at Rucker Park. What I am trying to say is that the methods of a “cantonament” which in Romanian refers to a retreat of the team from their normal environment is as relevant today to a team’s comradery and performance as it ever was, it’s all about location, timing, and the people involved believing in their goals. Allowing student-athletes the possibility to explore new environments, overcome challenges together, and be disconnected in order to connect is as prevalent today as it ever was!
For the AISB Vampires, the team-building excursions represent a lot more than just a weekend get-away (more often than not in the beautiful Romanian country-side), they represent a chance for the team to isolate itself from the daily or weekly routine, and re-focus their thinking and vision as a collective group. The benefits of a mountain-side team-building have numerous advantageous health benefits as well (of course, these are achieved long-term over a span of time not in a simple two-day weekend), however the increased altitude clean air, and the change of scenery does wonders for the body and spirit, especially when a team trains to its full capacity trying to get to its optimal shape for matches in their short season.
Curtea de Argeș, Poiana Brasov, Musatesti, Barajul Vidraru, Cheile Gradistei, and many other locations are among the places we have visited or will try to visit with either our football, basketball, cross-country, and/or volleyball teams. During these weekends, student-athletes sweat, they tear their muscles and regenerate over a hot meal together. New bonds and friendships are formed, they see their coaches in a new light, and the team agrees upon a goal for their season and make memories that will last them a lifetime.
The experiences teams will undergo together have the power to transform thinking, hearts, and relationships – this is why we as coaches play a pivotal role in how we lead and model what is the culture of our team spirit. For me, the high-school varsity girls football squad strives to achieve a level of unity that stretches beyond the pitch. This task, like anything has to be worked on intentionally and with care, otherwise it will perish in the daily grind of social media-driven chatter and superficial interactions. Time change as they always have, however our human experiences are the foundation for connecting us with teammates, our surroundings and in sports. The times of adversity, exhaustion, and provocation are all blessings in disguise because they allow for character building, for shoulders to lean on, and most importantly for knowledge of self – something we can all benefit from in life, knowing ourselves in these situations and inspiring others is something to strive for, to work on and to be a constant work in progress.
Coaches, when you try something different with your team, fear not that is outdated. Sometimes in striving to give student-athletes the experiences we might have never had as adolescents involved in sports, we forget the importance of giving them the experiences we did have. From reaching out and lending a strong-hand up, to the locker room banter, to the bus rides where laughter and singing were prevalent. All of us learned from some body who inspired us and that particular some body was not afraid to be vulnerable and share their passion with us. Now that it is our turn we have a great power to give these Vampires opportunities to lead, fail, rise, and reflect with no expectations of high performance, but a great expectation of self-fulfilment and team unity.