Culture is the most overused and misunderstood word in football today. As coaches, we know the importance of developing a strong, positive culture in our team but at the same time if we were to ask coaches how they do this very few could answer with concrete plans of action. Teaching, building and establishing culture is no different than any other aspect of coaching. You must identify what you want, communicate it to the kids and then hold them accountable to the standards.
Developing Core Principles in Your Program
Determining your culture is one of the key concepts for a football team. There are a variety of different approaches to this. One of the more popular ways to do this is to have the kids vote on their core words that they want to embody as a program. Here it’s important that the players have a say in the words, but as a coach you can guide them in the direction that you would like them to go. Another way is to give them a list of 10 words and have them vote on what they believe best defines them. The one non-negotiable of this process is that there must be a limited amount of core beliefs. The ideal number is three or less. Once lists start to get above three the importance of each belief gets diluted.
Once you have created your core beliefs the next step is to establish what these core beliefs will look like on your football team. These are specific actions that anyone coming to your practice should see. For example if one of you core beliefs is to Finish a behavior for that belief might be finishing through the line in every drill. Again the key is that your players know the expectations and why they are expected to do certain behaviors. When they know the connection between the behavior and the core belief they are mentally reinforcing the belief in their mind every time they do the behavior.
The most difficult part of establishing Cultural Beliefs in your team is to hold the players accountable everyday for the culture of the team. The first two steps are very easy and chances are if you have been in a organization for more than two or three years you have been part of a culture roll-out. The errors do not come in the creation of the cultural beliefs and determining the actions, the let down and erosion of the culture happens in holding people accountable to the beliefs and actions.
There is no culturally neutral action, you are either building the culture you want or you are building the culture you don’t want. I like to envision culture as a snowball. Whenever a member of the team (coaching staff, players, managers, parents, everyone) takes an action they are either adding to the snowball and helping to build the culture or they are tearing away from it. When you initially roll-out your cultural beliefs you have a relatively small snowball. As time goes on you are either adding to the culture snowball or you are taking away from it, there is no neutral action.
Culture is one of the most misunderstood and important aspects of coaching. We all want a great culture but very few of us can describe what a great culture looks like and even less of us can describe how we want to build a great culture. The key is to establish your cultural principles, determine very clear standards that demonstrate those cultural principles, and continue to build your culture in everything you do.
(See Also) Benefits of Youth Football