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Mini Training: 4 Simple Steps To Improving Your Team Culture

Note from PPT: This blog is an overview of Lindsey Wilson's mini training, originally published in our Positive Performance Mental Training For Coaches group on Facebook.  Click the video below for the full training.

There are 4 areas (we like to call them "buckets") of team culture. These buckets represent the different parts of a team that need to be addressed in order to cultivate a positive and sustainable team culture. Build an army of leaders who are devoted to upwards trajectory and growth for the betterment of the team by addressing the following:  

Individual Mindset

If you've ever flown in an airplane, you've been told that in the case of emergency, put your oxygen mask on before helping others with their own. The same goes for athletes on a team.  If you're not taking care of, or feeling great about yourself, it's nearly impossible to contribute to a positive team culture. If you're tearing yourself down, you may even be subconsciously tearing other people down. The individual mindsets on the team need to be healthy in order to build a healthy team culture. This is non-negotiable. If you fail to teach individual athletes how to be confident, mentally tough, and focused, you will find that your foundation of team culture is unpredictable at best.

Team Behavior

How athletes interact with teammates on and off the court directly represent your team's culture. Language, behavior, body language, and locker room talk are all big contributors to the team culture. Ask your athletes how their team behavior reflects a positive, encouraging team culture. Notice the athletes that show leadership in this area by encouraging teammates when they're struggling, staying late to clean up after practice, keeping score in the scrimmage, and helping fellow teammates with non-sports-related activities like homework or homelife. Point these behaviors out so that everyone understands that these "small" things are valued on your team.

Conscious Commitment To Culture

As a team, it's necessary to start the year by committing to growing the team culture. This has to happen on a specific day at a specific time to act as an anchor when the team drifts off course. It's easy to think that OF COURSE everyone wants a great team culture, or that just discussing it once in a while is enough. But great teams make a conscious choice together to commit to the betterment of team culture because it's not always obvious or easy. At some point, that commitment will be difficult to uphold. It's important to make this decision as individuals and as a team on a specific day at a specific time.

Action Plan

Change is tough to make without a real plan of action, so sit down, and design a plan. First, take your team through a series of questions to help you define an action plan for building a positive team culture. Ask your team the following:

  • What does your team stand for? This question is a great one to ask because it's important to be unified and know your team ethics. This question can also provide you with the building blocks for writing your team mission statement.
  • What are 3 things you can do every day to improve your team culture? Ask each athlete to mention three ways they can contribute to a positive team culture. They can be small actions such as "high-fiving" and "getting to practice on time". When your athletes make the decision and commitment themselves, they're more likely to stick to these actions than they would be if you told them what they needed to do.
  • What are 2 barriers that may keep you from competing at your best? Ask each athlete to identify the things that will make it hard for them to uphold their commitments. Again, these can be small things like "feeling tired" or "getting discouraged".

After you've defined your mission statement (see question #1), and individual action plans, and once you've identified your expected barriers, it's time to schedule regular check-ins. The easiest way to make your check-ins consistent is to pick one day every week to reserve time at practice to return back to your mission statement. When that day comes around every week, ask each team member to state:

  • 1 thing they'll stop doing
  • 1 thing they'll start doing
  • 1 thing they'll continue doing

Reminding your athletes every week about your mission statement, and having them engage in this exercise with you, will help your team stay the course and build a healthy team culture that strengthens more and more each week. When your athletes fully understand the routine of this weekly meeting, give the responsibility over to your athletes. Forge leaders by letting your weekly meeting be athlete-led. Ideally, this check-in can be done without coaches even being present.

Ready to start training the mental game?

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