Cat Kim
Strengthening the Bond

With training camps starting this month, every player and coach is searching for the secret recipe for on-ice success. While on-ice talent is always a key ingredient, the raw skill set of players is only a portion of what makes a team so successful in the standings.

“Trust between teammates is fundamental to a successful season, and team building is something I focus on throughout the season,” explained Brian Dooley, the Head Coach of the Atom “AA” Leaside Flames. “When teammates are close, when they trust each other, and when players prioritize team success over individual success, the combined effect is greater than their separate efforts.”

The approaches coaches take team bonding often differ based on how many new players there are to the team and the age group. Former Herb Ebisuzaki Coaching Award winner and Head Coach of the Bantam “AA” Vaughan Rangers, Joseph DiMaria, explains that something as simple as a team meal or off-ice activities can really help in bringing teammates closer together.

“I give teams an assignment or two where they would need to work together in groups to set team and individual goals,” said DiMaria. “It helps them get to know each other and gets them all on the same page with respect to the culture and identity of the team.”

For younger age groups, DiMaria feels the responsibility to bring the team closer falls on both the coaches and returning families.

“If the kids see Mom and Dad are liking the team and the environment they will be more comfortable walking into the dressing room and ultimately on the ice,” said DiMaria, who led the Minor Bantam “AA” Vaughan Rangers to a Pro Hockey Life Cup last season. “If us coaches are instilling the right mindset it makes all this very easy.”

Players new to an already bonded team may benefit the most from team building activities in training camp, but, according to Dooley, shouldn’t feel intimidated to insert themselves into the fabric of the team.

“Show that you’re just as excited about your teammates’ success as your own. Work hard, show your team that they can rely on you, and you won’t be the “new guy” for long. You’ll be a trusted teammate and a contributor to your team’s success.”

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