Building A Winning Team Culture
When coaches talk about “the team” many of them focus on cohesiveness. Likewise, many use the word family. These are powerful sentiments, but we must remember that a team can be cohesive in a negative sense, and a loving family is not necessarily a productive one. I tend to favor the approach of coaches who concern themselves first and foremost with building a winning team culture. A winning culture is based on norms, or expected behaviors. These behaviors can be reduced even further into decisions. If you want a winning culture you need players to become conscious of the decisions they are making. You also need them to be able to differentiate between making a winning decision which allows them to perform to their potential, or making a losing decision which will hold back their development and hinder their performance.
All coaches have high expectations. But setting such expectations only charts a course. It is team culture that propels a team or anchors it in complacency. The culture of a team is seldom dictated by the coach. Rather, the modern reality is that team culture is a compromise between the players and coaching staff. But competitive coaches can take steps to combat the ever prevalent mindset that everyone is entitled to a trophy and help their players better understand the realities of winning and losing. In doing so coaches not only put their teams in a better situation to win, but provide an invaluable service by preparing their players for the real world.
Once expectations are set, a coach has to break down each team task and identify what winning and losing behavior looks like in each particular situation such as a drill. For example, a winning behavior would be for a player to start a drill at the front of the line rather than hide in the back. In the weight room this would mean finishing each of the reps assigned rather than skipping reps. This takes some forethought as the coach must envision how a high character player will attack each specific task as opposed to a typical slacker’s approach. By identifying these behaviors, and clarifying these winning and losing approaches for players before an event like a drill or weight lifting session takes place, each player’s approach is reduced to a simple metacognitive decision; should I choose the winning way or the losing way, or as I like to phrase it The Character Way or The Easy Way.
On a larger level coaches want to develop in their players an awareness that in each of their life endeavors they can expect to identify this same choice. This takes a great deal of instruction, practice, and patience. However, this investment pays great dividends once players develop a conscious mindset of how their choices ultimately lead to their own success or failure. Team culture becomes readily identifiable to both coaches and players once they share an understanding of the winning and losing choices team members make.
Teams are comprised of players of varying levels of character and mental toughness. Within each team a cultural struggle takes place. Will the team rise to the level of its most productive and committed players or be dragged down by those who want the rewards of winning without making the sacrifices required for success? In order to win players must be able to clearly see this struggle so that they can help one another abide by the culture of winning and avoid the culture of losing. Consistent winning starts once the members of the team stop vacillating between The Character Way and The Easy Way and start to win all of their decisions, all the time, on and off the field. Once this happens you have a winning culture, or a family full of winners.
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