Building a positive team culture provides a foundation of integrity, loyalty, and work ethic that can permeate throughout a program. Ever been on a team consumed with negativity, poor leadership and conflict? That kind of environment can be very frustrating. Considering no matter how hard the athletes train, poor team culture seems to continuously interfere with consistency and performance.
As a strength and conditioning coach, there’s a unique opportunity to influence team culture by getting everyone on the same page. Strength and conditioning coaches largely impact how the team gets along, functions, and performs.
Building a Team Culture
A team culture is the expression of a team’s attitudes, characteristics, and beliefs. In other words, the culture creates norms of acceptable behavior for the team. Consequently, such standards then dictate how to act, communicate, assist, and deal with conflict. When clear rules are established, members of a team will abide by them.
Most importantly, the culture creates the atmosphere that permeates every aspect of a team’s experience. Is the atmosphere laid back or intense? Care-free or competitive? Encouraging or disparaging?
The qualities of a culture have serious implications for how the team functions, directly impacting how teammates get along. More crucially, culture impacts how each player performs and consequently the team’s success or lack thereof. Team members will likely feel a heightened sense of belonging and a sincere willingness to support the team’s culture.
Questions to Ask
As a strength and conditioning coach, don’t limit your role exclusively to training. Take time to sit down with the entire coaching staff and athletes, and discuss the kind of culture the team wants to have. In doing so, I encourage you to review and discuss the questions listed below. Doing so will build a team that has its best chance of consistently performing at its highest level possible.
- What values do we want to act as the foundation for our team culture?
- Can the players, position coaches and ancillary staff (managers, graduate assistants, etc.) recall and define the team’s foundational principle(s)?
- Do players know their strengths, what they need to work on, and their weaknesses?
- Do players know how much time they should devote to enhancing their strength, what they need to work on, and their weakness?
- What attitudes and beliefs about your sport, competition, and team do you want to hold?
- What are the goals that the team wants to pursue?
- How do the athletes and coaches want to treat each other?
- What kind of atmosphere do you want on your team?
- After I (strength coach) build the team’s culture in the offseason, how will the coaching staff continue to support the culture during the competitive season.
Once you can answer the above, put the wheels in motion to address these areas with your coaches and players. Make them part of the very fabric of your program.
Using Visuals to Reinforce Your Culture
A final word of advice, consider adding motivational graphics for your team. The below are on digital display in our weight room, and serve as a constant reminder of our team’s cultural development.
Hired in the Summer of 2016, Mike Bewley serves as Clemson University’s Director of Basketball Strength & Conditioning.
Prior to Clemson, Bewley was Assistant Director of Strength & Conditioning for the Yellow Jackets from 2012-16, serving Georgia Tech men’s basketball and men’s tennis. Prior to his appointment in Atlanta, Bewley was a specialist in sports nutrition and strength & conditioning coach at the University of Dayton from 2005-12 for both basketball and golf teams. Before his tenure with the Flyers, Bewley spent 2002-05 as an assistant strength & conditioning coach at Georgia Southern University and implemented programs for baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball while in Statesboro.
Bewley is a 1998 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education. Bewley earned a master’s degree in education leadership while working as a graduate assistant at the University of Nevada.
Bewley’s career doesn’t reside exclusively in athletics. A successful entrepreneur, Bewley has developed several companies that embody his spirt that inspires athletes and coaches to become the best they can be. Bewley’s latest company is the Dynamic Warmup Movement Assessment (DWMA). Built for athletes and coaches, the DWMA is the fastest and easiest way to execute a movement screen in the same time it takes to do a dynamic warm-up. Bewley is also the designer of Nutracarina, an intuitive online platform that seamlessly combines the nation’s top specialists in sports nutrition and sport dietitians with cutting edge technology. Additionally, Bewley is the originator of Critical Reload, nutrition company missioned with providing athletes and teams with safe and affordable sports nutrition solutions.