As coaches, it’s our responsibility to build a culture for our athletes, and it’s our job to instill in them the way we run our team from our behaviors, values and beliefs.
If you are trying to create a positive culture within your team, there are five key components: attitude, mindset, reinforcement, perseverance and passion.
Something as simple as your attitude can have a huge impact on your culture. A positive attitude helps your entire team grow, because your athletes will buy in and trust what you are teaching. They will believe they can accomplish anything. Eventually those with a negative attitude will start standing out, and it will be your responsibility to correct this issue. Just having one “bad apple” could affect your entire team’s behavior.
In softball, you fail more than you succeed. You can see it constantly in your players’ batting averages. Therefore, it’s important to instill a positive mindset so that they don’t get caught up on their failures. A positive mindset will help a player persevere and fight through their struggles. Athletes constantly go through ups and downs, but those who are successful are the ones whose failures do not faze them. This is all about having a positive mindset. One athlete I had the privilege to coach had a .345 batting average with 14 home runs and 64 RBIs in her junior year. During that time she had a positive, determined mindset. She knew that she could get a hit off any pitcher. Then in her senior year, she had a .234 batting average, six home runs and only 18 RBIs. The difference was that her mindset was no longer positive but rather defensive. She was less motivated and unwilling to work through her and her team’s “failures.”
One of my biggest tips in creating a positive culture is through reinforcement. Both negative and positive reinforcement need to be instilled, but with the positive outweighing the negative. Positive reinforcement should always follow positive actions and effort given from your players. Meanwhile, negative reinforcement should always follow extreme habits that you want to eliminate from your team’s culture. Never give positive feedback when your team has just failed miserably, because it adds confusion to the direction you want to take your team. Be consistent with your feedback, because it shows your players that their actions are not going by unnoticed and motivates them to continue to do the right thing.
Always preach perseverance. As I mentioned, you fail more than you succeed in the game of softball; therefore, you need determination and perseverance to be successful. By instilling perseverance, you help your team come together to positively influence and take control of their outcomes. Perseverance makes a player a go-getter rather than someone who sits back and watches everything unfold. Your culture should always consist of fighting, battling and giving it your all to achieve your stated goals.
While passion for the game is hard to teach, it’s easy to see who truly loves the game and those who play just to play. If you have the luxury to choose your players, be sure to choose those with passion. Those passionate players will constantly give it their all, and you want that imitated in your culture. As an athlete, I had a passion to play the game of softball; day in and day out I did extra, whether it was running on my own, hitting and taking extra cuts, or asking to get more repetitions in the outfield. I tried to lead by example and through my actions, and because of that I believe my passion for the game was passed on to my other teammates. Two years in a row we were able to make it two Southland Conference championship games, where we gave it our all as a team.
I truly believe with these five components, you will be able to instill a positive culture for your team that they will be motivated to mimic year after year.”