The Importance of Creating Team Culture

Creating Team Culture to Support Kids’ Mental Game

Intentionally or not, all teams have a culture.

While cultures are usually not created intentionally, the impact of the culture is far reaching.

But what is team culture?

“The culture is how it feels to be involved with the team,” says Mark Lawton, a longtime teacher and coach who has led numerous teams to the championship level.

“How the team feels about and interacts with the coach. Do you want the culture to be one that is serious and goal-oriented or do you want it to be more upbeat and fun?”

When it comes to creating a team culture, numerous questions can arise about fairness, styles of play and how athletes dress, he says.

Coaches, with the help of parents, need to address these issues.

It’s important to create a team culture that actively supports kids’ mental game, he says.

For example, parents and coaches may want to create a culture that appreciates all that can be learned from mistakes.

To accomplish this, coaches could actively talk about mistakes and run drills specifically meant to encourage kids to make mistakes and move through them. They should enlist the parents to help them instill this idea in sports kids.

It’s much easier to instill these values at the beginning of a season, rather then trying to create them later, Lawton says.

“These culture choices will just happen naturally if you don’t consciously make those choices from the start, and if they happen naturally there’s a good chance you’re going to end up with a culture you didn’t actually want to develop,” says Lawton. “On the other hand, if you cultivate it, you end up with the culture you actually want. You have to be proactive.”

One real-world example of the benefits of team culture is San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich.

He cultivates a culture of family, telling all of his assistant coaches to “hug ’em and hold ’em” (meaning the players) as much as possible. He believes in telling his players that they are part of the group, and he believes that every one of his players can meet the group’s high standards.

This consistent culture has created consistent play. The San Antonio Spurs have won five championships with a .713 winning percentage and 20 consecutive winning seasons.

“You need to define the culture very early, but then after a week or two I like having a team meeting where we can solidify the team culture, even though I wouldn’t say it in those terms to the kids. Personally, I like a team culture of doing well and having fun,” says Lawton.

He stresses that while it’s important to create a culture at the start, it is equally important to be consistent about it.

“You have to be clear with your expectations and then you need to be clear in your implementation of that. A lot of coaches may lay down their expectations but not stick to them, which doesn’t help cultivate culture at all.”

Listen to our interview with Lawton here:

*Subscribe to The Sports Psychology Podcast on iTunes

Help Young Athletes Boost Confidence in Sports!

The Ultimate Sports Parent

Every day, we receive letters from parents like you who want their children and teens to excel in sports. However, these parents can see fear, doubt, and frustration on the faces of their kids who struggle with the “inner” game of sports. But these parents have no idea how to help their kids overcome the worries, expectations and self-defeating thoughts that prevent their young athletes from feeling confident and successful.

You can benefit from our 15-plus years’ of work in sports psychology and sports parenting research. Now, you can tap into our secrets to sports success through a cutting-edge, 14-day program that helps young athletes overcome the top “mental game” challenges that sports parents face—and the top challenges young athletes face.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.