Field hockey coach Jenny Crane sits in the stands overlooking the Stanford-Cal field hockey game, watching her team laughing and talking with each other as they watch the game. Before this event, the team had eaten dinner together at Town and Country before walking over to Stanford.
Like many sports teams, the field hockey team organizes bonding activities so players can grow closer.
Senior Jess Watanabe, who is the captain of the girls varsity volleyball team, said the team always takes a bonding trip to Half Moon Bay at the start of each season.
“This is usually towards the beginning of the season so that we kind of establish good chemistry early on,” Watanabe said. “Other than that, we usually go to Town and Country on Fridays, and we just hang out as a team for an hour or two.”
Watanabe said getting to know her teammates off the court is crucial because volleyball requires such strong team chemistry.
“When you’re playing with them, you have to have good communication,” Watanabe said. “You have to establish good trust, so I feel like it’s super important for all of us to get to know each other on the court and off the court so that we understand what kind of person they are.”
Sophomore and tennis player Audrey Horn said her team bonds by having dinners and boba together, which helps her and her teammates feel more comfortable with each other, which translates to teamwork in-game.
“I think it’s better to connect with your teammates. It just makes you feel more comfortable around them during matches,” Horn said. “For tennis, occasionally you play doubles, so you’re with another person on the team. If you feel more comfortable with them, you usually end up having a higher chance of winning.”
Freshman Liam Li said the junior varsity football team’s bonding events allow the team to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and rely on each other.
“Football is a team sport, and no matter how many good players you have, if you have a toxic relationship with each other, you can’t make the plays,” Li said. “But as a team, someone’s strong part might be your weak part, and if they can compensate for that, it’ll make the team stronger.”
Junior and water polo player Grace Gormley said activities outside of practices and games help her team go from a group of athletes to a close-knit group of friends.
“These people are my teammates, but they’re also my friends,” Gormley said. “It’s really great to get to spend time with them in a setting that’s not just a training environment. (Team bonding) is kind of a nice way to both build up our trust with each other as teammates and then also to just get to know each other in a place that isn’t in the pool.”
From a coach’s perspective, Crane said bonding activities can also help teams recuperate after tough losses or hardships during the season.
“In the face of adversity for (the field hockey) team, they were able to continue to keep morale up and stay positive because they genuinely like each other and get along,” Crane said. “And if that wasn’t the case, I don’t think that our team’s morale could have been as positive as it was during the really tough season like this last season.”
Crane said she allows time before and after practice for the players to have fun making things like TikTok videos or pregame hype videos.
“As a former student-athlete, I know how important it is for players to bond with each other off of the field in order to cohesively come together on the field,” Crane said. “To care about and to value and respect your teammates as humans translates to a better connection and team dynamics on the field.”