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The experienced coach knows that knowledge of relationships is the way to help athletes reach their full potential…but how do we build those relationships and team culture intentionally? Jump in at the very beginning of your season…

Photo by Deborah Hage, North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League

Team building is arguably the most important role of the head coach. The novice coach often believes that knowledge of sport is the most important aspect of coaching great athletes. The experienced coach knows that knowledge of relationships is the way to help athletes reach their full potential. 

NICA provides many on and off the bike examples of how to build team culture and relationships throughout the season. But how do you know when to use the right activity at the right time? 

We like to think about team building activities in three different phases – acquainted, familiar, and comfortable. 

  • Acquainted activities are simple, involve low risk, require minimal levels of self-control, and minimal autonomy
  • Familiar activities are more complex, involve more risk, require more self-control, and more autonomy
  • Comfortable activities are complex, involve greater risk, require high levels of self-control, and a lot of autonomy

Teams take time to form and build. Coaches need to respect that building process and help guide athletes through the process. Start with games and activities that are low risk and have minimal competition. The start of each season is a great way to invite new athletes into your team culture and remind returning athletes why they love being a part of your team. 

Every practice in the early part of the season should include a team building activity. These activities can be on or off the bike. Here are some of our favorite early season team building activities:


  • Entire Group: Rock, Paper, Scissor Tournament 
  • Entire Group: Rock, Paper, Scissors Transformation
  • Entire Group: People Bingo 
  • Groups of 5-10: Something True/Something False
  • Entire Group: Knee Tag


  • Entire Group: Zombie Tag 
  • Groups of 5-10: Cardboard Slide & progressions 
  • Groups of 6-12: Figure-8 / Dual Figure-8 

It can be easy to dismiss the idea of team building as unnecessary but you will be able to feel the difference when you invest time and effort into team building, every season.

You can find descriptions on how to play and set up all of these games in the NICA Education Center in the Adventure Resources section. To access the NICA Education Center, click the “Courses, Resources, & Benefits” button in Pit Zone.


NICA's Coach Education team exists to support a network of thousands of volunteer coaches across the country in their work to develop youth through the sport of mountain biking. NICA's coach education provides coaches with the skills, knowledge, and abilities to be confident and effective leaders and role models who build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling.