Sports & StrengthsFinder – Using Strengths to Build Strong Teams

It is the end of summer and beginning of fall here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This time of year means I am coaching women’s college volleyball at Bethel University. Overall this is my 11th year of coaching at different schools.

As a StrengthsFinder consultant and strengths evangelist I try and bring strengths to every environment that I am in. Strengths help people, teams and cultures become more self-aware and productive. It is easy for me to advocate for organizations becoming strengths based.

A few weeks ago during our preseason, our head coach Gretchen had me take our team through an introductory education experience about StrengthsFinder. Our team is pretty young, comprised primarily of first and second year students. Although young, these women are very self-aware and mature for just starting out in college.

What is the StrengthsFinder Education Experience?

In any  a 201 Strengths education experience, we have the following objective:

To achieve an individual understanding of personal StrengthsFinder™ themes and strengths based behaviors. Through dynamic instruction, SF 201 offers a platform to identify one’s “theme print,” dominant strengths and personality styles in combination with supporting themes. Incorporated into the directed teaching, SF 201 gives practical integration strategies to “apply forward” the information received during this day.

We had three hours to get through the main points of a 201 teaching day. Our team was very high in the themes of Achiever and Competition, and from that we know, things need to be goal oriented and competitive throughout our season. As I mentioned earlier, our team was mature beyond their years and had lots of good insights on their own strengths and teammates who they knew as well.

Using Strengths to Build Strong Teams

StrengthsFinder gave a positive language to put around behaviors these players see with each other every day in practice and during games. StrengthsFinder also helps us as a coaching staff know each player individually in a way that helps us know how to coach that player. All players are unique and a one-size fits all approach does not work.

I have the strength of Focus, and for years I just got on players about ‘focusing’ and some did and some did not. I need to continually figure out how to speak to each player based on their unique wiring. A player who is high in Empathy and Adaptability might respond very differently than a player who is high in Competition and Significance -I know, I have coached both.

Good and Bad

There is good news and bad news about knowing your player’s strengths, but mostly good. If you know your player’s strengths, you will have insight on how they might respond in a given situation. You will also have insight on what motivates them and perhaps how they communicate.

Bad news?

There is no formula that will guide you exactly how to do this. Having worked with numerous high level sports’ teams I know coaches would rather have this information than not have it at all. One of my clients who is a Division I volleyball coach texted me a few weeks ago excited about the players he had on his team, and their strengths. He has embraced a strengths based culture in his program.

StrengthsFinder 201 Outcomes

In addition to using strengths to build strong teams, after taking our players through the 201 education experience, I also hoped they would:

  • Gain an individual knowledge of top 5 StrengthFinder™ themes.
  • Learn to communicate with others around strengths behaviors with examples.
  • Hear the strengths of others within conversations and identify behaviors of others with strength.
  • Show how to create strengths based partnerships and understand why.
  • Apply strengths to personal potential, liabilities and ‘right fit’ leadership opportunities.

Since we only had three hours to work with the team we will do some micro interventions during the season to keep the strengths based conversation alive.  Then, during the off season I will have 1 to 1 conversations with all the players then do a Learning Community 360 with them during our spring season to take what we did in the 201 to another level.

Seems like a good amount of work.

It is.

Is it worth it?


These women will be more likely to perform at a high level as players and students at Bethel University. In turn, they will have a better chance of doing well in their career. I cannot tell you how many people I meet of all ages who cannot answer the question of ‘what are you good at, what do you well?’  StrengthsFinder helps with all of that.

I am glad our head coach Gretchen believes in the strengths based philosophy for self-awareness, team building, and managing and leading players in the best way possible.  It is fun to be a part of.  It also helps improve our results as a team.

How are you using strengths with whatever team you are on?

What has worked well for you?