One day I was listening to an audiobook on my way to work (something I highly recommend) and I was struck by a very simple idea. The book I was reading was a leadership book that was all about creating and installing culture within a team. The author said, if you ask your players what the culture of the team is about they should all be able to answer you with similar words. His theory was that if the players do not know, and can not articulate their culture, then how is it supposed to be universal. I was so captivated by the idea that I had to turn off the book and sit and think about the concept for the rest of the drive. I vowed at the end of my drive that I would create a culture where every person within the culture could not only articulate our culture, but could do so using a shared language.
Creating Core Behaviors for Our Team
Culture, by nature, is a fuzzy word. It is almost impossible to create a great definition yet we can feel it the moment we walk into a room. This makes it difficult to teach to your players. I am a firm believer in having incredibly simple and concrete teaching progressions that allow players to arrive at the intended result. The problem I ran into was that I didn’t have a clear, defined structure to teach the culture we desired. Considering the fact that I viewed culture as much more important than the plays that we run, this was a major problem.
I don’t want to pretend that I came up with this on my own, or that it’s even close to perfect, it has a long way to go, but we’ve seen some positive results. I leaned heavily on the teachings of Tim and Brian Kight and the Focus 3 Podcast to come up with my system and I would encourage you to listen to their podcasts as they are great sources of knowledge.
What we did to start our process is talk about what Core Values are. We talked about the ideas of Core Values and how they can be present in every action we do. We discussed how they should be visible to an outsider the second they walk into a room and how they aren’t just a football thing.
From there we told each player that they were going to be responsible for picking a word they wanted to represent our offense (I am the Offensive Coordinator so we did this as an offense but it could easily be used as the whole team or a position group). I didn’t want them to write down the word right away. Instead I gave them the practice to think about the word they wanted. They then wrote it on a slip of paper and put it in an envelope.
Related Content: Developing Core Principles in your Youth Football Program
After the players had all written down their words it was time to boil them down. From there I grouped each word with ones that were similar and nested the words together until we had four words. This was done in the summer because I am new to our program so I worked through this process with the rest of the offensive coaching staff. In the future when we have more time we will work together to group the words as an offensive unit and get more player involvement.
The next thing we did was introduce them to the team and we started to hold them accountable to these core principles as the summer went on. Early in the summer I did a good job of talking about each one at meetings before practice but have fallen off of this as the season went on. I will work to get back to highlighting these core principles before every practice. I believe this has been great for our group as they seem to have bought into the principles and can hold each other accountable to them. In a future article I will talk about how we used these Core Principles to create behaviors for our team so that they had clear expectations of the type of behavior we expected in all areas.