Team Building Off The Court
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Lynx coach Shelley Patterson has now been through four Olympic breaks during her affiliation with the WNBA. Each time the league pauses for a month to allow their athletes to participate in the Games, teams need to find ways to keep their athletes still in town continuously preparing for the second half of the season.
But facing your own teammates each day for five weeks without the benefit of a game can be grueling, and Patterson, along with coach Cheryl Reeve and assistant coach Jim Petersen, saw this break as an opportunity to think outside the box.
So the Lynx did something a little different. Throughout the break, the team stepped away from the court and participated in team-building events that provided a cross-training workout beneficial to their basketball goals but still provided a change of pace and a chance to get to know one another off the court.
The Lynx went paddle boarding on the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, then followed it up with a Capoeira Fitness kickboxing outing on Aug. 7 and a Zumba class on Aug. 9.
“Cheryl Reeve and I talked about trying to mix things up instead of being on the court all those days,” Patterson said. “In my offseason, I do a lot of Zumba, a lot of kickboxing, anything that’s not in the gym. So when we discussed it, we thought it would be a great team-building thing.”
The team agreed.
Patterson said she knew there would be players who were hesitant at first about some of the off-the-court events, especially those who aren’t familiar with the water or have never been part of an organized cardiovascular gym class. But as each event transpired, the Lynx as a whole looked as though they thoroughly enjoyed the varying activities.
The cross training began when Stand Up Minnesota took the Lynx out on the Mississippi River and sent them on about a three-mile journey downstream from North Minneapolis all the way down to Boom Island. Lynx players stood or sat on their paddle boards—whichever seemed more natural to them—but ultimately got a core workout in and got a glimpse of the outdoors activities Minnesotans enjoy during the summer.
“A great adventure,” Taj McWilliams-Franklin said. “We were out on the water with Stand Up Minnesota, handling our paddle boards and being one with the Mississippi River here in Minnesota. This was my first time ever, not swimming in the water but being on top of it. It was exciting.”
It continued with Capoeira, a kickboxing workout which originated in Brazil that challenged the Lynx players to work their core along with maintaining their balance through the footwork and kicks synchronized to music. The team took the class at the LifeTime Fitness in Target Center as instructor Preston Rogers—whose Capoeira name is “Meia-Noite”—led the way.
Lynx guard Erin Thorn, who said in her career she’s never had an Olympic Break in which her WNBA team reached outside the box to mix up its workouts, said she enjoyed learning the Capoeira routine. It was a prime example of how cross training away from the court can help build fitness while bringing the team together.
“It’s a good mix up,” Thorn said. “Thirty days, no games, if you’re practicing basketball every day you might get, it might get a little over board. To break it up, with these activities, it’s a good team bonding experience. At the same it’s a good workout and it’s a good change of pace.”
The team finished up with off-the-court training with Zumba, an intense workout that incorporates salsa music with up-tempo contemporary songs to produce a dance-fitness exercise.
In both the Capoeira and Zumba classes, the Lynx really showed their bonds. The group laughed, displayed their unique dance moves and sang along with some of the songs over the loudspeaker.
“One big dance group in Zumba,” Patterson said. “I think Capoeira incorporated a lot of things that we can use on the basketball court—staying low, using your legs and not your back, using your balance. I think they can get a lot of that out of that. I know I did.”
Patterson said the routines should help the players both from a chemistry standpoint and a fitness standpoint.
“Everything we did has something to do with building a better body, building a better balance, building our core,” Patterson said. “All the things that are needed in being a better basketball player.”
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