What does team culture mean? How can coaches build and maintain it?
Team culture is what defines the team’s identity. To identify what your team culture is, you need to know what you stand for. And to determine that, you as a coach need to be proactive about having the discussion with your team about what your team believes are the characteristics that will lead them to success.
However, your team culture’s should go beyond what they believe it takes to win. It’s their expression of their beliefs, attitudes, and values about competition. If your team culture focuses on sportsmanship, it will help keep them grounded or their egos in check. And if your team is ever in conflict, they can rely on the team culture to put things into perspective.
You can let your team culture develop naturally, as your team members start to build a bond. At some point, they start to feel a sense of ownership for the culture they’ve created for themselves.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to giving athletes, particularly young ones, too much freedom. Their preconceived notions or win-at-all-costs attitude they may have already had before they joined your team may cloud their judgment. Or they may start to break off into small groups, as teams commonly do. As you lose team cohesion, you may start to lose control.
This can happen at the youth league level when young athletes still need the guidance of an experienced coach. Remember, that positive team cultures are focused on accountability, work ethic, and discipline. And as the coach, you can discuss these values to your team.
Take the leadership role and guide your team to a culture that is positive and proactive. Start by teaching your young athletes about the following characteristics:
Discipline and Work Ethic
Athletes need to understand the value of why rules are enforced and expectations are set. It’s for their own safety and growth. Respect for the rules combined with their work ethics ensures that the team will behave morally and properly. It will set their expectations that their misbehaviors or lack of respect will have consequences. Let them recognize the being disciplined and working hard has its rewards.
Every team has their star players. There will always be one or two team members who stand out. The worst thing that a coach can do is glorify and focus entirely on individual performances. To promote team culture, you need to encourage teamwork. Value the roles each member of the team plays. Help them recognize their individual efforts are about servicing the team as a whole.
Teach your athletes that they’re bound to make mistakes and fail. What’s important is that they take ownership of them and learn from it. And to teach accountability, you need to model it. You need to be prepared to admit to your team when you’ve made a mistake or an error in judgment. They will respect you more for it.