Having a positive youth sports culture on your sports team is not just creating a social media hashtag. A culture is the expression of a team’s values, attitudes, and beliefs about sports and competition. It determines whether, for example, the team’s focus is on fun, mastery, or winning, or whether it promotes individual accomplishment or team success.
What most people don’t understand is that a program with winning cultures doesn’t happen overnight. When developing a culture, I love getting to the point where it is player lead vs coach lead. This isn’t easy but the belief and trust in the team, that the team can lead itself helps win the most competitive games.
When we think about winning, most people think this is about winning on the scoresheet. Creating a winning culture is more than just what the scoresheets says, it is winning in life too.
What do you need to build a winning youth sports culture?
In all relationships, trust is important. You can’t build trust in one day, it is built over time. You must build trust with your leadership, coaches and team.
Culture building is consistent, doing it every day and living your ideals. That consistency is seen and heard by players and staff day in and day out.
Accountability is really just the art of putting action behind a promise. It shows a team that things are fair and objective. That no player is above the others, that earns the coach and program respect.
How do you build a youth sports culture?
Be All In:
Your attitude to your players and parents means a lot, it creates the culture of the team and helps the team have a winning mindset. When people know that you are in it for the interest of others, it helps create trust and respect. Be all in!
Give players, parents and staff respect. This means that it you have a loss, you don’t go and blame any one player. Take the call, be honest and trustworthy. It will go a long way when you need it. One of my favorite things is to ask for feedback from players. That can mean asking them about a specific drill (do they like it, etc). Also, offer the players a why. Why did we do that in practice? What is the purpose of this exercise? It helps players feel like they are part of the process.
Treat players with respect, expect a lot of them, include them. My philosophy is that if a player is playing, my time is dedicated to those standing in front of me. Include them in practice planning, some decisions, listen to them and help them self reflect on their skill level.
Make players accountable every day, this means starters sit if they missed practice. If you have a rule that is in place, you need to follow that regardless of the player. This is important, it puts the whole team first vs an individual. And this is hard for most coaches as winning at all costs overtakes some teams. When this happens, you loose trust in the culture and leadership.
Make tryouts truly fair using a rubric. What is a rubric? It is a list of qualities that the coaching staff is looking for in their players. These metrics can be quantifiable or qualitative. The rubric should be communicated out ahead of time to parents and players. When tryouts are objective, it helps players and parents understand where their player ranks.
Focus on the present:
Keep your team focused on the present. This means that focus on today vs tomorrow or the next week. The team can waver when there is too much to focus on, so being the present helps the team chip away at today vs dealing with too much.
Keep highs and lows in the middle:
This is one I love, it is more about just having an even level mindset. Keeping the team calm under pressure during really important games that if you win or loose, you can keep moving forward.
Be a Continuous Learner:
As a coach and players, you want to keep learning. This can be asking a lot of questions, talking to other coaches, learning new drills, and asking for help.
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