Jan 12, 2018All Rowing Together
Every coach is different and every team has its own way of operating. But top coaches agree that in order to realize continual success it’s imperative to foster a positive team culture.
“Culture is the foundation of coaching, and it’s much more important than the Xs and Os,” says John Krikorian, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Christopher Newport University and a recipient of the Glenn Robinson National Coach of the Year Award. “A culture exists whether you do anything about it or not. As a leader, you want to define the culture and have it be a reflection of your values.”
“Every team has a culture,” agrees Scott Rosberg, a former high school athletic director and basketball coach and current team-culture consultant, director of CoachWithCharacter.com, and speaker for Proactive Coaching. “The question is: Is your culture by accident or design? The best cultures evolve when coaches take the time to develop them with a clear purpose.”
Rosberg has done this by creating posters displaying his team’s core covenants and purposefully reinforcing the ideals all season long — at practices, during games, and even out in the community.
He also makes sure that members of the coaching staff follow the covenants, including himself. “If I lose my temper and start yelling at officials, I’m not living by our covenants. And that’s missing the point,” Rosberg says.
Don Showalter, Head Coach of USA Basketball U16 and U17 Men’s National Teams, likes to use inspirational quotes that align with the culture he is trying to create. He calls them “mind candy” and looks for opportunities to blend them into team practices. One is: “Be driven by your dream.”
Another example Rosberg likes is John Wooden’s famous quote: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” He works it into discussions at practice, and then asks players what they think it means and how it applies to the team. “That could be the first time kids have a conversation like that in an athletic context,” says Rosberg.
Holding players accountable to the values created is also important. While leading the USA Basketball Men’s U17 National Team to a gold medal at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship, Showalter had a tough decision to make. Four players — who all are likely headed to the NBA — broke curfew one night, and he had to decide how to react.
“We did not play them the next game,” Showalter says. “It wasn’t the gold-medal game, but that still sent a message to the rest of the players. As a coach, you really have to stand by what your non-negotiables are. Sometimes, building a team culture is more about subtraction than addition. There may be times you have to tell a player, ‘We’re a better team without you.’ You must get rid of excuses, comfort zones, and negativity before you can start to add anything to the culture of your team.”
With player buy-in and reinforcement from the coaching staff, a team culture can then be a beautiful thing to watch. “Once you have a culture built, the older players will educate the younger players about how to do things,” Showalter says. “That’s when you know you have a culture that works.”