A beautiful oak tree is admired for its lush branches, strong limbs, and full canopy. Rarely do we notice the complex root system underground that enables it to be an inspiring presence.
But in truth, the appealing qualities, are a result or by-product of the healthy roots.
We do this in other areas of life as well. It’s easy to focus on what we see — the results — when really our attention should be on creating the right circumstances or culture to GET the results we want.
Sports programs become energized when they embrace a culture-focused mindset.
Here are 3 steps that you can take today to create a compelling culture for yours.
1) Provide Opportunities for Communication
What happens in any relationship when there is a lack of communication?
We fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, it is usually done with harmful activities. Things like:
Intentional communication between coaches and parents can minimize this damaging gap-filling.
Create regular communication opportunities for both parties. This can be with:
- A weekly email sent by the coach to all the parents, including information about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, logistical details for games, spotlights on athletes, etc. (If a particular coach struggles with writing he could enlist the help of a team captain or willing parent to be his voice.)
- One-on-one meetings between parents and the coach to ask questions or learn how they can best help their athlete.
- Group meetings once a month with a focus on educating parents on one aspect of their role.
When clear communication is available and positive, a healthy culture can develop.
2) Define Expectations
You get more of whatever you tolerate in your program. And poor behavior that is tolerated seems to spread like a virus. This is true whether it is coming from toxic parents, mischievous athletes, or negative coaches.
Expectations of what appropriate behavior looks like needs to be defined clearly at the start of each season. Talk regularly about the actions you applaud to keep them on everyone’s radar. Here are a few ways to clarify your expectations:
- Start each week with an inspiring, this-is-what-you-get-to-be-a-part-of chat with your athletes. Aim to inspire good behavior rather than threaten punishment.
- Arrange for a face-to-face with parents whose athlete needs redirecting.
- Consistently follow-through on consequences when athletes or parents ignore the behavioral expectations of the program.
When everyone is clear on the expectations, the team culture feels safe.
3) Talk Regularly About Your “Why”
What is the mission or purpose of your program? In other words, why do you do what you do?
Obviously, every team wants to win but your “why” needs to go a bit deeper.
Ask yourself, is this program designed to:
- Give kids a life-long love of staying active
- Develop collegiate athletes
- Teach skills to new athletes
- Have fun and make new friends
- Represent a school
Be sure to talk about your program’s “why” with coaches, parents, and athletes.
A clear purpose drives achievement more effectively than a passion for the sport.
Whether your sports program is in its early stages of development or you’re feeling that an existing one needs to be re-energized, focusing on the team culture is vital to moving forward.
John Maxwell’s famous quote points to the efforts of those at the top of the program;
“Everything rises and falls on leadership”
Presidents, athletic directors, and head coaches can take a look at these 3 areas to create a compelling culture and begin energizing their program today.