Numerous books have been written about developing the culture of your program, business, etc. Personally, I couldn’t agree more with the importance of creating and sustaining a championship culture because it not only enhances your opportunity for success in your program but it also provides an opportunity to engrain core values into your players that will remain with them long after they have left your program.
At White Oak, our program was centered on our “I Believe” philosophy which is explained in the pages portion of the Coach With A Purpose blog. However, we also built our culture around a “5 as 1” approach. Obviously, one meaning of this approach is the concept of teamwork…5 individuals playing as 1 cohesive unit. One way we symbolized this philosophy was with the acronym “FIST” (Five Individuals Succeeding Together) in which the five individual fingers represented individual players and the clinched fist representing the coming together of the five individual parts to make the team. The fist bump became a symbol of culture we wanted to create in our program. Whenever our coaches and players would cross paths, the fist bump became a symbol of this solidarity as well as utilizing the important trait of physical contact.
In conjunction with the “5 as 1” philosophy, we created the 5 Core Standards of our program. The 5 standards have always been a part of our program but I believe they became much more prevalent when we posted them in our locker room and began to address them specifically. With this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I will discuss the 5 Core Standards of White Oak basketball.
By our definition, “Be Responsible” meant to fulfill your obligation such as showing up for school, practice and games, being on time, and completing and turning in assignments on time. Being responsible meant not making excuses and consistently holding yourself to a high standard of excellence in all that you have committed to doing. Learning to be responsible is key to the maturation process in an age of helicopter parents. Once players enter our program as a freshman, they must begin to understand that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the one who wears the uniform.
To many, responsibility and accountability are synonymous but by our definition, responsibility has to do with “for” and accountability relates to “to”. In other words, we are responsible for actions but accountable to a person or group. For us, “Be Accountable” meant to do your part for the sake of others. Hold yourself to a high standard in all areas because others are counting on you to do that. As head coach, I was accountable to my players, their parents, our school, and our community. However, as a Christian, I am ultimately accountable to my God and as long as I feel like I am giving Him my best then I am fulfilling my obligation of being accountable to others. Accountability reinforces the value of being a part of something bigger than yourself.
When many people hear the word “discipline”, they immediately have negative thoughts while others have a totally different connotation of the word. For those with negative connotations of the word “discipline“, it’s probably because they routinely are in need of being disciplined. For those who hear the word “discipline “ and immediately think of consistently doing things the right way regardless of the circumstances, there is a positive connotation. For our program, “Be Disciplined” was trained through being precise in all we do without cutting corners. Shoes are flat in lockers, clothes are hung up, basketballs are put in the rack, touch the line…all of these “little things” train doing things the right way and create strong habits. It’s these habits that will show up when circumstances get tough in basketball but, more importantly, when things get tough in life.
It’s impossible to have a championship culture without trust because there is no substitute for being truthful and standing up for what is right. A person’s word must mean something and honesty must be a staple of your character. For over 20 years, we had open lockers in our dressing room and rarely ever had a problem with stealing. First of all, for the most part, the players in our program had outstanding character. Secondly, all involved knew stealing would not be tolerated. Not being trustworthy is a character flaw and rampant character flaws will eventually lead to the demise of any program. All championship programs have a standard for behavior and this standard must be enforced consistently.
For us, “Be Respectful” meant to show gratitude, look people in the eye when being spoken to, understand that all people are not alike but all have value, to judge on merit and character, and to honor positions of authority. At White Oak, the vast majority of our kids are respectful. They are raised to say, “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” and to respect positions of authority. Most of the credit for this behavior goes to their parents as well as the expectations of our administrators and teachers. Without a doubt, one of the benefits of coaching at White Oak has been the overall excellent behavior of our student body and especially our athletes.
These 5 Standards were the backbone for establishing our culture during my 25 year tenure and our players embraced the importance of measuring up to these standards. For the most part, our athletes knew what was expected and they knew the standards would be enforced so, consequently, players who didn’t want to measure up just didn’t play. To some, this may seem harsh or too demanding but I believe these standards have value. First of all, success does not come to those who aren’t willing to meet a higher standard and, secondly, these standards also laid the groundwork for success after high school athletics.
As the leader of your program, it is important to establish your Core Values or Standards. Once these non negotiables are established, they must be explained to all involved and everyone must be willing to buy in. Finally, the leader must be willing to hold up the standards by making everyone accountable. So, in conclusion, I encourage you to invest in this process in order to develop a championship culture. Winning championships is not always possible but taking a championship approach is.
Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!