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UK Coaching Research Team
Rapport Building and Communicating

Bringing New Players into Your Team

How can a coach manage the smooth transition of new players into a team? Canadian research uses theories from business to provide evidence based tips that any coach can adopt

For a new player coming into a team, the process can be one full of problems and anxiety. Although sports teams tend to have strong and supportive social bonds, the newcomer must first understand team norms, ways of working and social status among players if he or she is to fit in. As a coach, you can make this process easier, and the quicker you introduce the new player, the easier it is to maintain team harmony, and hopefully success.

Organisational socialisation is a theory from business management that researchers in Canada argue could also be applied to sports teams.

The research showed how successfully bringing new players into a team is a balancing act between enforcing rules and expectations, and at the same time encouraging inclusive environments and individuality. As with all coaching, the skill of a coach is their ability to correctly balance these competing themes.

As such, there is no simple recipe for success, but based on the research, there are practical issues that any coach might want to consider:

  1. Beware of players developing unrealistic expectations of what they will be doing and when​​

Try to provide accurate and detailed information before players join the group. Also, make sure that what they experience is the same as what they were told would happen.

  1. What new players worry about most is being accepted by their teammates

Try to establish social bonds within and outside sporting contexts as early as possible.

  1. Business research has consistently demonstrated that information passed from veteran employees to newcomers is one of the most influential tactics for alleviating role ambiguity

Your experienced players are key to newcomers’ transition into the team, but make sure you pick the right people. You want older players who will reinforce positive behaviour and attitudes!

  1. Turn new player initiation into a process

Plan to do things from before the new player even turns up, and know when you are going to use formal processes and when you are going to rely on informal processes and mentors.

Related Resources

  • Creating a Welcoming Environment

  • How to Build a Better Team Culture

  • Understanding Transitions and Supporting Athletes Through the Process


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UK Coaching Research Team