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Simple Steps Can Go a Long Way Toward Establishing Culture on a Softball Team

On every softball team Jamie Olson has ever coached, trying to establish a team culture is paramount at the beginning of the season.
From the first day of practice until the final playoff game, Olson wants her players to be a tight-knit group.

“Honestly, I believe 100 percent that there’s a correlation with that team culture,” said Olson, who coaches the Sun Prairie (Wis.) varsity softball team. “I’ve seen it. This will be my sixth year at the varsity level, and I’ve seen it throughout the program in regards to when I first started until now.”

Establishing a team culture is paramount at the beginning of each season for Jamie Olson’s softball teams.

From the first day of practice until the final playoff game, Olson wants her players to be a tight-knit group.

 “Honestly, I believe 100 percent that there’s a correlation with winning and team culture,” said Olson, who coaches the Sun Prairie (Wis.) varsity softball team. “I’ve seen it. This will be my sixth year at the varsity level, and I’ve seen it throughout the program in regards to when I first started until now.”

One way to help build a strong group of players is through activities away from the diamond, Olson said. The girls get to know each other in a stress-free zone and can open up more.

“Once we get our teams established, we try to set up some fun team bonding activities,” Olson said. “Little things we’ve done in the past are laser tagging, or a movie night. ”

Olson’s players usually have weekly team dinners at families’ houses — with a rotating schedule — the night before games.

“Coaches sometimes go to the team dinners, but we try not to intrude on them,” Olson said. “We want them to be able to build that team culture amongst themselves instead of us trying to push it on them.”

Olson usually lets the players dictate what activity and the frequency the team gets together. She knows not every girl is going to get along with her teammates, which is  why she shares a simple message to her players at the start of each season.

“I try to instill in them, you may not be friends in the hallways, you may not interact with each other during the school day, but when it comes to practice and games, you have to be able to get along and communicate,” Olson said. “You build that great elusive team culture everyone wants by putting your differences aside and working together.”

During practice, Olson also tries to get her players to rotate who they work with for drills so it’s not the same duo every day.

“It’s always good to change it up and work with somebody else every day and sort of teach each other and work together. That’s part of going outside their element and getting to know each other.”

Olson also tries to build a culture where all the players are aligned on  goals throughout the season. At the beginning of the season, each player will write down her short- and long-term individual and team goals. Each week, the girls will sit down before a practice and reassess those goals.

“We’ll let that be for a couple of weeks and then we’ll go back and look at it and talk about it to see if they achieved that goal,” Olson said. “If they’ve achieved their goal, then we’ll set another. If we haven’t met our goal, what can we do as a coach and as a player to make it happen?

“We try to keep an open line of communication and  provide positive feedback to these girls. They need that communication, otherwise they get frustrated and their emotions go wild and it’s hard to rein them back in.”

Setting the same goal tightens the focus for the players.

“I try to tell them, ‘Set your goal high, but don’t set it too high that you know you can’t achieve,’” Olson said. “Once we win the conference championships, we set our next goal and focus on that as a team and as individuals so we all have the same vision.”

We want to hear from you! Tell us what your team does to establish their team culture?

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr

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coaching advice, youth softball, softball coaching, coaching tips, Coaches and Parents, baseball, softball

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