Team Culture: the manual


I’m asked often for a manual for building a positive team culture, fixing drama, creating unity, getting rid of cliques, reversing poor attitudes, and turning around programs that were toxic in the past.

I’ve sat down a few times and outlined some things like – ways to approach your initial team meeting, how to put together expectations, how to build a vision, ways to make practices feel fun, safe and high intensity with an environment built for effective learning.

But I never finish it. I can’t. Because each season has a different set of players with different needs. Each group has a different level of play, different bias coming in, different families, assistant coaches, past hurts that need to be dealt with.  There is no one action plan that could possibly work for every team.

I don’t think I’ve ever coached a team in the exact same way two seasons in a row.  I have to re-evaluate and meet my team where they are, build the vision, and then build a plan of action. Then we take a few steps forward, a few steps back. We uncover some issues we didn’t know were there. We stumble over some set backs. We get frustrated. We mess up. We re-evaluate again.

Many coaches might do it differently. Choose different activities, different ways to approach their players. Maybe it’s one on one meetings. Maybe it’s team building activities. Maybe it’s rallying around a local cause. None of these are wrong.

I can’t write a manual on team culture based on action steps. Because there are not a set of steps carved in stone that will always work. It’s a concept, it’s a mindset.

If you want to have a positive team culture, fix toxic past issues, create unity, break through barriers with incredible determination built on solid belief, then you have to lead with those qualities in whatever actions you choose.

Two coaches could run the exact same team building activity. One excited, passionate, believing in their players and what this can do for them. The other reading a set of steps out of a book and pointing to who goes next just to get through the activity. They will have completely different results.

If you want your team to come together, lead with love, passion, excitement, and the overwhelming and unrelenting belief that no matter what it looks like now, that positive future is within the grasp of every single player on that team then you must believe. Believe it so deeply that your team cannot help but be on board, and no matter what comes up, don’t let go of it. Never let fear, anger, frustration or ego influence your decisions. If you lead with those positive concepts in mind, your steps will fall right into place, whatever that means for your team and where they are in this moment.

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