One question I get more than any is how we build the culture in our program on the strength and conditioning side. The first thing needing addressed is that the culture of a program isn’t a separate entity in each area on and off the field. Its an umbrella under which the entirety of the organization operates. There shouldn’t be a disconnect between the weight room and locker room. The weight room culture can exist because the “on the field” ethos is in place and vice versa.
1. Head Coach Buy-In
The most important aspect in my mind is that there is buy in from the head coach. To me, athlete buy is impossible if the head coach isn’t fully on board. When the leader doesn’t recognize the importance of what you’re trying to accomplish it becomes virtually impossible to hold everyone around you accountable to the standards necessary. Developing the attitude you want a team to have on the physical performance side relies on a coaching staff that will support the necessary actions to achieve the end product. Without support from a staff it becomes a house built on a foundation of sand.
2. Team First Team Always
Applying a team first attitude in everything is an important factor. The precedent is set that the team matters above all else from the get go. That means good or bad, the team, not the individual, will be held to the standards of the program. Things tend to correct themselves quickly when an athlete realizes there are 35+ others that will be held accountable for their actions. Our attitude is that we win as a team and lose as a team. We foster the importance of little things to develop the team attitude that everything matters. Emphasizing those little things early in a program build big things down the road.
Competing is an easy way to foster greater development but also greater team involvement. Competitions are one of the best way I’ve found to bring the laggards along in the group setting, especially when they’re one of the better players on a team. Engaging those athletes early on in a training session helps to keep them involved and interested the rest of the way. Every athlete is an individual and will respond differently in how they’re coached, but creating that competitive environment often forces athletes to rise up or get left behind. You can often eliminate the “go thru the motions” guy when pride is on the line.
4. 40 Coaches not 1
The team is above the individual. Engage the older athletes to coach others around them. We constantly reinforce that it’s their team. The weight room doesn’t have one coach but forty coaches. There are forty pairs of eyes watching every time you do a rep. We encourage our athletes to be coaches at all times. The program grows as a “we” not “me.” The older athletes know the coaching cues and movements we engrain on a daily basis. They are as good as I am at spotting what a younger athlete may need to correct a movement pattern. This route develops leadership amongst our team and a tradition of giving back when it’s your time.