“Culture” is a term bandied about in many sporting circles these days and, simply, refers to a team’s general behaviour on and off the playing surface. On a more philosophical level, a team’s culture can be seen as a dynamic entity that can be nurtured and grown or that can wither and decay if neglected. In addition to the shared set of team values and a coach’s athlete-centred objectives, athletes must buy-in to these structures. It is important that they contribute to these elements as much as possible, making them more genuine and more likely to be adhered to.
There are all kinds of elements that can be put in place to enhance a team’s culture such as cheers, unique clothing, rituals, group outings, etc. They can focus on history, inclusivity, and positive interactions that encourage openness, respect, expectations, accountability, and enjoyment. The coach can make suggestions, but even the team’s player leadership group should avoid imposing rituals, etc. on the players. Creating them must be a shared process, ensuring that everyone enjoys and respects them. A player-created team culture is more likely to maintain itself as years roll on within the school or club.
One of the most common elements of a team’s culture are the goals it sets for the season. Season goals should be created with players and, ideally, by the players. The coach should act as a merely a facilitator, to clarify and focus their language.
The typical process is to adopt SMART process goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, Time-Referenced). Too often we focus on outcome goals which are beyond anyone’s true control. If we say we want to win the league but then do not achieve that goal, then we’re left with a feeling of emptiness and failure. Process goals that focus on things that contribute to successful outcomes, not the outcomes themselves, allow us to truly measure our progress. They are, in effect, the building blocks of our potential outcome, or dream goals. The process of setting realistic process goals must also addresses potential road blocks to those goals and strategies to overcome the road blocks. If we know that skipping practice leads to not learning / developing certain goals, we then come up with a statement on attendance and a reasonable approach to managing it positively that everyone can agree-upon.