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The Team Ritual That Hasn’t Changed Since 1892

The field, court and arena are filled with special moments. Game-winning points, rival matches, comebacks from injury and other markers that make participating in sports a singular and transformative experience.

No doubt you’ve even had a few of those defining moments yourself. They’re the moments that keep you going and keep you inspired, fueling your love and passion for the game.

At the crux of many of those special moments is a team ritual that’s more than 125 years old: The huddle.

A vehicle for communication, motivation and inspiration, the huddle brings the team together and into the present moment unlike anything else. The rush of game time energy and the crowd surrounds you, but somehow everything is still and focused when you’re shoulder to shoulder with your teammates; and nothing else matters.

So, who or what started this ritual anyway?

It was quarterback Paul Hubbard from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., a university for students who are deaf and hard of hearing, who suggested the huddle. Suspicious that the way they used American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate among teammates from across the field was giving away secrets, Hubbard wanted a way to connect without the opponent seeing their strategy.

 

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Gallaudet University football quarterback Paul Hubbard invented the team huddle so opponents wouldnt see him using ASL to explain the play to his teammates.

Like many inventions, the huddle started out as a solution to one challenge, and ended up having many other benefits.

Little did Hubbard know, he was creating a ritual that would help to improve communication among athletes and individuals all over the world. #gamechanger

“While a lot of communication on the field may happen simply through eye contact, any yelling or cross-field communication can be a challenge for anyone to interpret, not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Erin Stauder, executive director for the Hearing and Speech Agency (HASA), which helps people with communication challenges of all kinds. “The huddle can provide clarity and direction for both coaches and players in settings even beyond the court or field.” 

This was in 1892. And since then, it’s been adapted by teams across the world.

We asked around to learn about what some of our athletes have to say about the value of the team huddle:

Getting the team huddled together is important to get everyone on the same page. It can also be a tactic to kind of settle the team down if they aren’t playing too hot or seem a little flustered and are down a goal or two. Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers

 

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It’s great to bring the [team] together regardless of score or result and regroup or refocus on the task at hand. I like to look at their eyes and see the focus. Interaction is huge between player-coach in the huddle.

A GREAT “huddle” moment: Overtime of the 2016 National Championship, we were man-down against MD to start the OT period. Having been Man-down five times already, each member shared their thoughts with the group and we decided on a plan. With great teamwork and confidence, we effectively executed the fundamentals of the plan, made a save, cleared the ball and eventually won the National Title! –Joe Breschi, head coach, University of North Carolina Tar Heels Men’s Lacrosse

The team huddle is so important. When everyone is locked in and on the same page, you can tell when you look around at your teammates that the vibe is where it needs to be to succeed on the field. It's an amazing feeling. I've been a part of some powerful huddles, it's one of my favorite aspects of being part of a team. Michelle Tumolo, Team USA & the Philadelphia Force; coach of the University of Oregon Ducks

There are few things that get me more HYPED for a game than the final huddle before you take the field together. It’s the last couple of seconds where you get to look at each & every one of your teammates in the eyes and know you’re all about to give everything you have for one another for the next 60 minutes. Alyssa Parker, Team USA

Team huddles get you pumped up knowing you have your teammates next to you and supporting you, sharing one common goal. At that moment, not much else matters besides that team huddle. Sloane Serpe, Long Island Sound

We all grew up with the team huddle, no matter the sport. Considering specializing in just one sport? Consider diversifying instead. Here’s why.