How an overnight retreat changed the dynamics of a young team


Each basketball season presents a new challenge for Head Women’s Basketball Coach Naomi Graves, and, the 2017-18 one was no different. She knew communication among teammates was going to be a concern. Specifically, it was a young group with just one returning senior, while the rest of the student-athletes did not know one another well. Additionally, the constant presence of smartphones was creating a digital barrier among the players. Chelsea McAllister ’19 noted that even when eating lunch at Cheney Hall with her teammates, they would all be looking at their phones. Prior to the start of the season, Graves met with Angela Veatch, associate director of East Campus, to discuss the team’s goals for its annual retreat. Right then they decided this year’s retreat would be an overnight. Veatch worked with the facilitators to plan activities around the team’s goals while allowing the quiet spaces, reflective moments, and technology-free atmosphere to work their magic.

“We had a problem with people always being on their phones. When we got to East Campus and people put their phones away, you could see the environment kind of shift,” said Alex Goslin ’20. The facilitators ushered the players through team-building activities to improve communication and leadership skills. After each activity, the players would debrief and talk about why something did or did not work. “The facilitators are good about linking everything back to the team,” Graves said. During overnight retreats, the teams are responsible for their own meals. As such, the team broke off into groups, with some shopping for food, some preparing it in the kitchen, and some setting the table.

“When you split into small groups, your guard goes down,” explained Graves. After dinner, and in the absence of technology and around the warm glow of the Pueblo’s fire, the players were able to learn more about one another. “We got close and bonded on a deeper level. On campus, everyone is so busy that we don’t really have the time to sit and talk. So it was good to have that time to reflect and realize the importance of communication in everything we do,” said Goslin. As players decided on their goals for the season, they began to realize their potential.


“We have a young team so a lot of people think it’s a rebuilding year, but going to East Campus helped us realize that this is more than just
a rebuilding year. We have control of how our season ends up.
It’s really on us,” said Goslin. If the team’s 20-9 final record is any indication, it was, in fact, not a rebuilding year. The East Campus staff and facilities have always been a great resource for athletic teams, and more programs are using them to help tap into participant’s potential. “I can’t imagine the team without having that East Campus experience now,” said Graves. “Ben (Taylor) and Angie have built something special and they even followed up on the team throughout the season to make sure everything was going well.”