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Culture seems to be all the rage these days. It's debatable when this phrase became the latest trend in athletics, but it seems about a year or so that a focus on culture started popping up everywhere in the athletics and coaching world.
And culture is very important.
Far more important than X's and O's, and much more valuable than the toys and tools you can buy, is the culture that you build. A coach in Texas, Randy Jackson, wrote a tremendous book called "Culture Defeats Strategy," where he builds a case that your team's daily culture is more important than strategy.
How do you go about changing the culture of your program? Follow the lead of a program this writer took on in 2006. The team was 0-10 the year before, 2-8 the year before that. Needless to say, the culture needed to be changed.
This is the first in a series on changing the culture of your program. Let's start with changing the work ethic culture.
For us in 2006, it all started with changing a weak work ethic culture. Kids made the choice to work out at home, or with their own trainer. The baseball players in the program didn't lift weights at all, just kettle bells. We quashed all of that nonsense right away.
The first thing we did to increase the work ethic culture was demand attendance. If you're going to play football here, then you are going to be a part of our weight room program, period. If you want to change the work ethic culture, and if you need to change the work ethic culture, it usually starts with the weight room. And it usually starts with making workouts mandatory. That will take courage. Parents might have a fit, administrators might have a fit and kids might quit.
But if you really want to change the work ethic, you've got to make workouts mandatory, and be ready to lose kids. If that's the case, let them go. Your culture will get better without them.
The kids had learned that duration in the weight room was almost more important than results in the weight room. I heard over and over again how "We've been lifting weights since the first day of the offseason." I kept asking "so what?" What does that mean? Is the team getting stronger, faster, bigger?"
They had no way of knowing because nobody was tracking it. So we started tracking it. We took the music out of the room because it was a distraction. We shortened the workouts, but got more work out of it. We challenged the kids to get stronger and faster by comparing their measurements to other programs in the area; we showed them how weak we really were. We encouraged the heck out of the kids who worked hard, and we put hard workers, not the oldest kids, up as leaders.
Those three things: making workouts mandatory, measuring progress and putting up the hardest workers as leaders helped to dramatically change our work ethic culture. And that weight room culture led to a shift of our practice culture. More on that later.
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.