How to Improve Team Culture and Attitude
By Derek Parola
The three musts that coaches must do to improve a team culture. Those three things are getting the players to buy in to the system, creating an accepting environment, and establishing a hard-working expectation.
Getting players to buy into the coach’s system can be a delicate process when it comes to college level athletics. This can be the case because players come from all around the country and have been coached by different coaches their entire life. We’ll use baseball as example. Today, majority of baseball players are products of individual hitting coaches, infield coaches, or pitching coaches and these coaches believe their style is the best style. These players buy into these coach’s philosophies because it got them to the college level. Now, college coaches want to change something about a player and the players are reluctant to change because their college coach’s ideas are not the same as their hitting coach or pitching coach growing up. For coaches to get their players to buy in they must get the players to understand why the system runs the way it does. The coaches need to have a meeting with the players and explain to them that we do these drills because it aids in “X”and then that “X” will help us become better players. If players do not understand why they are doing what they are doing, then they have no chance of buying to what the coach believes. Another thing coaches need to do is to show their players successful results because of the system they run. They should show the current players successful stats and videos of old players that played for them. For a new coach, they should show them stats and videos of teams that run similar systems to what the new coach is trying to implement. My head coach at ISU has a meeting at the beginning of each year and tells us the new drills we will be doing and explains what each drill helps. This helps my teammates trust my coach and it creates a sense of trust between players knowing that everyone is on the same page working towards the same goal.
An accepting environment is important to a player’s learning and development. A player that feels threatened and unimportant are far more likely to fail than they are to succeed. A player in a safe and accepting environment will be open to new ideas and will bounce back from failure quicker because they know if they fail for trying, they will not be punished, but praised for trying. One way to create an accepting environment is by being a supportive leader rather than an achievement oriented leader. A leader that emphasizes results rather than the process can created unneeded pressure on players. Baseball is a game where failure happens a lot more than success. A coach that preaches getting a hit every time will make a player press more and more each game. This will make a player tense up in in-game situations because the player knows that if he doesn’t get a hit then he will be punished or yelled at. A coach that preaches hitting the ball hard no matter if it’s a hit or an out will make players feel more comfortable in the batter’s box, which will lead to more hard hit balls, which will eventually end up with more hits for the team. The process is much more valuable in baseball than the results.
Establishing a hardworking environment is vital to a high performing team and culture. Baseball is known not to be a power sport, but rather a finesse sport. This may have some truth to it, but it is very important to have strength to play at a very high level. The weight room is an important place for a baseball player to work hard, but it is also a very easy place for a player to be lazy and not take seriously. Making sure your players are going 100 percent in the weight room is a must to establishing a hardworking environment. The coach must find ways to motivate their players in one way or another. The coach can do this by setting goals for each player every couple of weeks. An example of this would be testing their squat max at the beginning of the season and then testing their squat max at the end of the season to make sure they have gained power. If their squat has not improved, then there will be a punishment for the player. If a hard-working environment is set in the weight room, it will also transfer over to the ball field. Players will feel too invested to the process to just go 50 percent at the field. Another thing to do to create a hard-working environment is to make sure the game is played the right way. This includes making players sprint in and off the field in-between innings. This includes making players run 100 percent on the base paths whether it’s a for sure hit or a for sure out and when players don’t obey these simple rules then they will be punished. This will create a hard-nosed mentality which will aid in the culture.
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