What Youth Sports Organizers Can Learn From Jim Harbaugh

By LeagueApps
July 30, 2018
2 min

LeagueApps is in the business of making sports happen for youth sports organizations, but like any forward-thinking company, we take inspiration from all over. That’s why when we plan our semi-annual company offsite, we look not only outside our industry, but also to the professional and elite sports programs around the country. While many of the 32 NFL teams have opted to run training camps at their primary practice facility, others still find value in going to an offsite location in order to build their team, including the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

“That free time in the evening is something you lose when you don’t have a secluded campsite,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said to Bleacher Report about the team’s training camp location of 50-plus years at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. “You can’t necessarily measure it, but you acknowledge it exists. When you get the opportunity to go away to camp, you’re developing some hardcore intangibles.”

Atlassian, the creator of the productivity tool JIRA we use widely at LeagueApps, says that offsite meetings are all about the team. And no program in the country is more synonymous with “The Team, The Team, The Team” than Michigan football, which has come up with their own unique off-site team-building activities by making European trips to Rome and Paris in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

All learning is not done in a classroom,” said Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh following the team’s 2017 Spring Break trip to Rome. The team, as a group, went sightseeing at the Colosseum, met the Pope at the Vatican, attended cooking school, and played soccer with kids on the beach, all in addition to conducting football practices. That unforgettable learning experience and cultural crash-course was a major reason why the team decided to do it again with a trip to Paris this year.

The team’s excursion to Normandy, the site of the famous D-Day landing during World War II, underscored the power of sacrifice to the entire team, and volunteering for the homeless and local refugees reinforced the value of service.

It was life changing (the visit to the refugee camp),” said junior fullback Peter Bush. “We take for granted so many things that others struggle for, that it’s meaningful to give back. I was with Noah Furbush, Zach Gentry and Jack Dunaway and we spent time sitting and talking with the refugees. It was one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done.”

As Coach Tomlin mentioned, the value of an offsite team activity is intangible. It is as much about the camaraderie forged and trust built in the trying moments as the friendships strengthened in the lighter times. Ultimately, bringing your team together by taking a step away from the day-to-day grind will have lasting benefits in and out of the office or playing field.

“I think it’s exceeded expectations,” said Harbaugh of the Paris trip. “The amount of vision or knowledge or experience this group of players gets out of this is priceless. You can’t put a value on it. It’s a wonderful experience.”

To learn more about offsites, and how to pull off a culture-defining one of your own, check our blueprint.