Dec 1, 2017
Culture is Key
Danny Olszowy

Changing a team’s dynamic and its culture when you take over a program as a coach or are in your first year working with a program as a strength coach is hard work. Often times people are unwilling to take a job because they don’t have the energy or know how to even climb such a mountain.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have numerous opportunities to be a part of a program and leave my stamp on it. I would be lying if I said everything was peachy from the start, or that it did not take diligence and patience to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I would like to shed some light into the process and bring some hope to young or even experienced coaches who may be staring at this mountain and not sure what to do next.

The first thing that must happen is, as a coach, you have to be the tone setter. Your expectation level has to be at an all-time high with energy and effort, from yourself and them. You cannot expect athletes to bring you energy and effort to their workouts and lifts just because you say they need to. They have to see you not settling for anything less than your best effort every single day! Otherwise, how could they possibly know what it even looks like?

That means that every day, you have to find a way to bring unbelievable energy to get them excited about what they are going to do. That could mean being a cheerleader and motivational, or it could mean being business-like and detail-oriented. There is not just one way to accomplish this, but this is the only way to accomplish changing the roots of a team’s culture. You can only demand that your athletes listen to you and work hard everyday. Anything beyond that is extending the realm of realistic expectations, blurring the true potential for changing everything you are trying to.

There is a kicker, though. It is very easy to have expectation levels through the roof at the start, before you really know the athletes. After a few weeks, however, you may get comfortable with each other and that comfort lowers your expectation levels, consciously or not. It happens naturally, but unless we realize it we are setting ourselves up for failure. Not that you won’t accomplish things, but you will not plant deep enough roots to truly change the culture. In that moment of awareness it is not too late to refocus yourself and re-elevate your expectation levels because it is unlikely any of your athletes noticed they had dipped anyway.

Look for Part II of this article next week.

Danny Olszowy, CSCS, USATF, is a Performance Training Specialist for SPECTRUM, Inc., in Orlando, Fla.

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