Building a Winning Team Culture

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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Consistent Success

The worst part of becoming successful is developing consistency. This step is so painfully frustrating because in order to reach it you first have to work hard in many areas. You have put in a great deal of time and effort. You have to learn how to be humble enough to listen to the people trying to point you the right direction. You have to become wise enough to learn who to listen to and who to ignore. This is tougher than you think because we often only want to listen to those who tell us what we want to hear. You have to push yourself hard enough to discover and address weaknesses in your character. You have to work hard time and again to improve. You do all that and then, you get someone telling you it’s not enough. It’s like scaling a mountain only to find there is more mountain to scale above the clouds.
It’s a hard lesson to learn that anyone can succeed some of the time. Especially if you hang out with people who do not succeed very often. To people like that, a good game or a good test is satisfying enough. But anyone can have one good game, or really study for one test and get an “A.” Doing these things is important of course. Everyone needs a taste of success. But in order to be truly successful you have to win most of the games. You have to beat the toughest opponents. In order to get an “A” in the class you have get “A’s” on most of the tests.
Learning to succeed over and over again is what consistency is all about.
Developing consistency takes mental toughness. The toughness to stay focused on your goal over a long period of time. Especially after you first succeed and want to relax. The toughness to put the necessary work in towards your goal over and over again. The toughness to be patient when you encounter a set back. The toughness to not let anyone or anything get in your way of winning that next game, or doing well on that next test.
I would say, by definition most of us are average. We win big then we lose big. We do just enough to get by. If you want to be above average, if you want to be excellent, then it will take consistency. The better you want to be, the more consistent you must become ,as a person, as a team, and even as a community.

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Gratituders & Gripers

Over the past couple of weeks I have heard from former and current players and their parents. One way or another they expressed appreciation. I am fortunate to have coached a lot of kids who get it and whose parent’s get it.

But it made me think of those who have not been so lucky.

Gripes are public and gratitudes are private. I say this because I have seen many fine coaches dragged across hot coals or even permanently fall to the public gripe. These same coaches have received thank you’s from appreciative players and families on countless occasions. The overwheliming majority of those positive expressions happen quietly and discreetely. 

Whereas the gripers bring their complaints to an audience, the gratituders thank the coach directly. The gripes are filed and the gratitudes are never witnessed.

Remember that the next time someone tries to belittle or run off the coach.

One’s lack of understanding of where the true preponderance of evidence lies is a reflection of you…not the coach.

As a coach I have always been appreciative of those who were aware of this.

Consider sending your coach or your kid’s coach an email. It will be appreciated. Unfortunatley, these days it will also be of use the next time the boistorous griper meets the decision maker who is oblivious of how gratitude works.

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Becoming a Winner

The first moment when you see yourself becoming a winner comes when you are doing the right things so consistently that you begin to see where the competition is falling short. It is increasingly clear to you that others just won’t do what you’re willing to do. You watch as they let things break them and then justify it to themselves and others. You see them fall in traps you had the character to avoid. You quietly begin to pass more talented people by because they are just not tough enough to do the job right over and over again.  You have begun to master what very few bothered to take the time to learn. You watched and  listened and applied what you learned. You now know that when nobody gives you a chance, you can win anyway.  There is no gap between what you can do and what you will do. With that comes a certain peace that only the true winners know.

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