By: Carrie Daniels, Varsity Girls Basketball Coach
Building a positive culture within your sports team is vital to the success of the players and team. At the forefront of developing the culture of any team is the coach. The coach has the task of not only motivating his/her athletes but also keeping them motivated. If players are motivated, they will develop a greater passion for their respective sport and in turn want to get better and give the team 110%. One of the most important aspects for the coach to achieve this is to show the athletes they care. We’ve all heard the phrase “they would run through a brick wall.” This phrase coincides with the athlete’s knowing their coach truly cares for them. When the culture is one of positive nature and caring, those athletes will be willing to run through a brick wall. As well as motivating and caring, a coach must have positive energy. When the coach comes in to practice or a game with positive energy, the athletes feed off of that. Successful teams that have bought in take on the personality of their coach. If a coach is nonchalant then more than likely the team will play with a nonchalant, attitude. If a coach is excited, inspired, and vocal, then teams tend to follow suit of that coach.
So many things go in to creating and maintaining a positive culture within a team and program. To attain success, a team must set goals and throughout the season, check back to see progress and how many goals have been met. There must be respect not only for the coach, but between players as well. When a team builds up trust between the coaches and players, the sky is the limit with what can be achieved. Coaches also can build a positive environment and culture by communicating with their players. Players need and want to know where they stand, what their role is on the team, and what the expectations are. The only way for players to fully grasp this is for the coach to be clear and concise with communication. Once a player is aware of his/her role and expectations, they have a responsibility to do everything within their talent to compete and uphold their role on the team.
When working with a team, it is a given that players tend to hang on to the criticism given by a coach. A coach can be instructing and giving constructive criticism but in the minds of these young athletes they tend to hang on to that or view it as negative. In turn as coaches, we must make sure for every “what is considered negative” comment, we give two positive comments or praise to off set. Players need to realize when they are not doing something correctly it will be addressed and pointed out so they can work on it correctly. Just as when a player is doing something correct, the coach, as motivation and encouragement, should point it out. Giving praise and encouragement is a motivating factor to work that much harder and do even better. Pointing out the good things and when something is done correctly enhances a positive environment and culture.
It is also important to create team chemistry. All players are not going to be the best of friends, but having chemistry and being on the same page means so much to the success of a program. Players should have a mentality that they have their teammate’s back and know their teammates have their back. One way to help with the chemistry is team-building activities. Players can learn to trust and believe in each other during these exercises. Spending time with your team outside of practice is also important. A coach can be an influencer in this and set up activities in hopes that eventually the team will take it upon themselves to set up team outings. It is at this time that you know you have great chemistry and a positive culture.
With all of these ideas, it is still important to remember we are dealing with young athletes that are learning so much about themselves and life. It is not always going to be perfect and every team has its issues and drama from time to time. However, with a coach that builds a positive environment and culture it becomes easier to deal with the issues that arise and the players are more apt to know how to handle them. Being a part of a team affords these athletes the opportunity to be a part of something so special and to learn so many life lessons that are far bigger than the sport itself.