Field hockey team in a huddle

Get Fired Up With a Pregame Team Breakdown

Many teams take part in a breakdown before taking the field. But a good number of those teams are simply going through the motions. That’s because the coach doesn’t recognize the value of getting the team fired up with a great breakdown.

Follow these tips to decide on a good breakdown for your team and take advantage of the benefits it can provide.

What is a Breakdown?

Simply put, a breakdown is short action that the team performs just before the game. The purpose is to bring the team together in unison before breaking up as individuals to take the field.

The most common breakdown I see is putting hands into the center of a huddle and yelling something such as “Go Team”. This is typically done right before taking the field at the start of a game.

The Goal of a Breakdown

The ultimate goal of a great breakdown is to maximize team cohesion on the field. The benefits a team can expect from a great breakdown include:

  • Transition of focus from warm-up time to game time
  • Heightened energy levels from the players
  • Increased sense or urgency
  • Increased sense of team unity
  • Growth of a lasting team bond

When a team has a great breakdown, they get ready to play and they are more likely to play hard, together.

Another side effect of a great breakdown is that it can also be a distraction to the other team. When your breakdown is better than the other team they will notice. They very well might start worrying about the outcome of the game and that will benefit your team.

Poor Breakdowns

As I said, the most common breakdown is putting hands into the huddle and shouting something. However, much of the time, the “shout” turns into the murmur of a lukewarm cheer. This is poor execution and doesn’t provide the benefits we need from a breakdown.

There are certain indicators of a poor breakdown:

  • Inconsistency in the breakdown
  • Little buy-in from the coach
  • Poor player participation
  • Lack of enthusiasm

Inconsistency and lack of buy-in are usually driven by the coach. Sometimes the coach forgets to have the team perform a breakdown. Sometimes the coach changes the breakdown up from game to game.

This makes it difficult for kids to fall into a routine so they know what to do. It’s harder to get excited and ready to play if the team doesn’t know what to expect.

Similarly, poor participation and lack of enthusiasm lead to breakdowns that don’t meet the goal. Remember, the purpose is to get everyone excited to play together. If a team is going to phone it in, they might as well skip it.

Take a look at this team getting ready to take the field. Do you notice some of the indicators of a poor breakdown? Not everyone is really participating (Mr. Guy-on-the-Left). It also failed to build much excitement. You as a coach can get your team to do better!

This breakdown lacks participation and enthusiasm.

My Favorite Breakdowns

I have two types of breakdowns that I frequently use with my teams. Both have been readily adopted by the players and meet the goals of the breakdown. The one I use depends on the type of players I have on the team and what seems to work best for them.

Power Breakdown

The first is similar to the Hands In breakdown but I’ve modified it to make it work. I’ve seen this work well with my younger teams and boys teams.

First, instead of putting hands in, we put in our fists. We don’t use outstretched arms, we bend our arms like we’re flexing our biceps. This little change turns the breakdown into a power move rather than a weak move.

I then get the team excited with a question and response chant. I very enthusiastically ask a few questions that they can easily and VERY loudly respond to. For example:

Coach: “Are you ready to play?”
Team: “YEAH!”
Coach: “Are you gonna play hard?”
Team: “YEAH!”
Coach: “Are you gonna have fun?”
Team: “YEAH!”

After that, we give a three-count, yell our team name, and end with a big power yell.

All: “One, two, three, GO Thunder! Arghh!!!”

This gets kids really fired up to take the field. The enthusiasm and loudness makes the other team realize this team is a force to be reckoned with.

Check out this example of a similar breakdown. There’s a lot of power in a breakdown like this. Everyone yelling loudly and in unison is getting them ready for battle.

Check out the power generated by this team breakdown.

Unity Breakdown

The second breakdown that I really like is a bit different, but does an awesome job of building team unity. I’ve seen to work really well especially with my girls teams.

First, the girls get in a tight circle interlocking arms over each other’s shoulders. They sway back and forth while using a question-response chant. I like to have one person shout the question “Who are we?” while having the team responds with their name. We do this three times and finish with a power growl.

Leader: “Who are we?”
Team: “STORM!”
Leader: “Who are we?”
Team: “STORM!”
Leader: “Who are we?”
Team: “STORM!”
All: “Arghh!!!”

Before big games I sometimes get in the center of the circle to help get the excitement levels up even higher.

Again, the team bonding and unity hat this breakdown creates is awesome. My teams that have used this breakdown have typically had great teamwork on the field.

The following team performs a similar breakdown. They have the swaying huddle followed by a question-response chant. When they break out of the huddle, you can tell they’re ready to play!

This breakdown builds team unity while also getting the players excited for the game.

Putting It All Together

Next season, try using a breakdown that consistently unifies and energizes your team. I am confident that you’ll see benefit from it. You can choose to use my Power Breakdown or Unity Breakdown. Or create one of your own, but make sure to choose a breakdown based on what your players will respond to. You can even let them help decide what it will be!

Check out this last video for a really creative take on the pregame breakdown. It’s much longer and more choreographed, but achieves the same goals.

Have you had success with other breakdowns? Have you seen the positive impact a breakdown can create? Share with us in the comments section below.

A unique take on the pregame breakdown.
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