How do you get a group of 15 highly competitive athletes to come together as a team and bond in just a few months? You let them compete against each other.
The UNC women's basketball team sought to build strong connections among its mix of new players. To achieve this, they encouraged competition and teamwork off the basketball court. The team — which includes five first-years and three transfers — engaged in various activities to foster camaraderie and fuel their competitive spirit.
Head coach Courtney Banghart said at the 2023 ACC Tipoff that meshing the entire team was something she worried about, but ultimately, this group was the "easiest team so far to coach."
"These guys really like one another," Banghart said. "They're connected."
They played “Minute to Win It” and “Family Feud.” Sometimes they would venture off campus and participate in atypical activities like whitewater rafting. They also got a sprinkle of many other sports, like wiffle ball, water polo and even golf, which first-year Ciera Toomey allegedly dominated.
“Ciera would whoop our butts every single time,” sophomore guard Kayla McPherson said.
McPherson admitted that she wasn’t a golf prodigy herself. “I’m awful,” she said. “I put this orange ball in the basket, that’s all I do.”
Yes, they were still putting in work on the court. But the secret to building good team rapport for this year’s group of Tar Heels was to do everything together besides just putting an orange ball in a basket.
One of the main sports they tried their hand at was pickleball. In August, the Tar Heels met at the courts on South Campus and picked up some paddles. As pickleball made its way onto UNC’s smorgasbord of bonding activities, the players quickly got competitive over the game.