Escape rooms are known to help in team building, but can they actually help spots teams communicate better? Virginia coach, Tony Bennet certainly thinks so.

Virginia won the NCAA championship last April but ended up losing three stars to the NBA.

The Intercollegiate men’s basketball program representing the University of Virginia competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Division | of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The Virginia Cavaliers have previously won one NCAA Championship, two National Invitations Tournaments, and three ACC Tournament titles. Their coach since 2009, Tony Bennet has been a big fan of team building activities since the beginning. Bennet is great at developing players from college freshmen into professional-caliber players during their years at the University.

The Syracuse basketball team lost to Virginia 48-34 at the Carrier Dome. Cavaliers no longer have Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy to rely on so it was expected that the team would have its own set of issues. The Syracuse lineup was also adjusted by Jim Boeheim, coach. Syracuse Managed a total of 19 points in the first 20 minutes and trailed by just 25-19, Struggling to get good shots against Virginia’s defense. 

The Virginia coach Tony Bennet shared that he has taken his team to an escape room for the team-building exercise before the game. Bennet is familiar with such activities having previously taken Virginia Cavaliers to a soft-ball game, white-water rafting and putt-putt golf in order to help the players relax while also strengthening their comradery.  According to the coach, they were divided up into foursomes, with Bennet’s group of 4 strugglings during the entire game. Usually, you will be restricted in the number of people you can take into an escape room but more and more options are popping up on that accommodate larger groups of people. Virginia team, although struggling, refused to use the big Styrofoam question mark that escape room has placed inside for the players to use to get some hints if they found themselves unable to solve the clues. Bennet said that they spent quite a lot of time in there actually, with the coach urging the players to use the big styrofoam question mark but the players refusing to give up and wanting to solve the whole thing themselves. Actually, this is not surprising at all, considering that Bennet took a team of university basketball players who have been very competitive their whole lives, in such an intense environment where you constantly need be solving something. Despite the team effort to solve the quizzes themselves, the team was still having trouble reaching their goals, so Bennet would secretly point to the styrofoam question mark while looking into the surveillance cameras so that the escape room workers would actually come in and help the 4 groups outs with hints. According to Virginia’s coach, if he hadn’t done that, the team would have stayed there forever once again highlighting just how determined these players can be.

Since the team just began its defense of the 2019 NCAA title the teambuilding exercise seems quite timely and turned out to be effective as well. Virginia is the first national champion to open the following season with a true road game since UCLA did it in 1968.

Coach Bennet also seems determined to leave the past losses or even wins where they belong- in the past. With a new team on his hands, Bennet plans to utilize all their strengths while treating the team accordingly. Bennet commented that he chooses not to get too hung up on the past, but he is still appreciative of those who already have been in the team for a while and thinks that their experiences will definitely enhance the game experience and help the new team members adjust quicker. Despite the fact that 3 of Virginia’s most renowned players: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy left the team prematurely to enter the NBA draft, Coach Bennet doesn’t seem to feel defeated at all with these changes and says that this gives him the chance to look at other talents and reinvent himself as a coach. “This might be the newest, youngest team I’ve had in my 11 years,’’ Bennett said. “We’ve got to go back to how we teach, how we challenge, how we deal with successes and struggles.’’- said the Virginia Coach.

The refreshing attitude that Bennet has when it comes to his team translates into their team building activities. While escape rooms have been a popular destination for a lot of corporate events, there haven’t been a lot of sports teams using the escape rooms as a bonding pass time. As described by the coach himself, the process was extremely engaging for the playings. When you think about it using Escape rooms as a team-building exercise makes a lot of sense since most of the athletes are very competitive and in most escape rooms there is a very strong element of proving yourself and managing to get out in time. But besides satisfying the competitive itch of sportsmen, this also helps to better connect with people that you’re playing with. In most escape rooms you can’t get out if you don’t collaborate. Having a team that doesn’t think like a team can be one of the worst things that can happen in sports. So practicing communication and embracing collaborations in an intense environment, like escape rooms, is a great idea that probably more teams will get behind pretty soon. But most importantly escape rooms are a fun way for players to destress before important games while also doing something productive and valuable for the team.

Escape room can’t be solely responsible for the win of Virginia Cavaliers but it certainly makes the activity look more appealing. As the coach Bennet himself said, having a new team is a new challenge and programs should be built through experience. Going to an escape room and experiencing a completely new type of challenge can help the players adapt more easily and take on the new season with more confidence. Since escape rooms can now accommodate larger groups of people it will become easier for all different sorts of groups to engage in Escape Rooms. Besides all the benefits listed above escape rooms are great for building trust between players while all the members get to contribute and feel involved. So maybe there is a portion of truth in saying that Escape room helped the team to feel better equipped to take on challenges even though these are a couple of newbies in the team.