Coaches Corner: Creating A Successful Team Culture

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“Winning becomes the byproduct of doing all of the little things right.”
—Melissa Wolter, University of West Florida

Melissa Wolter has a very clear idea of what that quotation above means. It turns out that they’re not necessarily little things, but certainly not X’s and O’s things. Many times, I’ll chat with a young coach and they’re all fired up about their sport and can’t wait to impart knowledge. Which is a good thing…but they don’t always understand there is so much more to coaching than stepping between the lines.

Are you going to have a book full of team rules or a few core principles? What values do you want your program to be known for? How will you use your coaching staff? How will you empower your players to be leaders?

Here are Wolter’s three areas of importance when creating a successful team culture:

Team rules

  • Be on time. Being on time is a sign of respect: for your teammates and for your coach. Beyond that, it’s upholding a commitment…a great life lesson.
  • No swearing. Knowing Wolter, this is a personal value that she holds dearly. If you’re a coach out there that doesn’t mind your players swearing, just remember that part of our job is to prepare them for the real world and at the very least our athletes should have enough control over themselves that they can turn the swearing on and off when required.
  • Always give full effort. If you want to see any coach lose it, don’t work hard. Effort doesn’t require skill. An athlete may have a ceiling on their skill level, but never on their effort level.
  • Communicate. In my opinion, this is the most important of Wolter’s rules. Everything hinges on communication. Think about any problems you’ve had with past teams…I’ll bet they all stemmed from either a lack of communication or miscommunication.


  • Self.
  • Institution.
  • Team.

Encompassing all of these bullet points is doing the right thing: go to class…be active in class, work out on your own, work hard in practice, do the right thing when it would be easy to do the wrong thing. If our athletes do those things, they’ll respect themselves, the school, and the program.

Coaching staff

  • Players have input. Even the most control-freaky of coaches can do this one. Years ago, I heard a coach say he gave his team input over where they went out to dinner after a game. He really didn’t care and the players appreciated having a say…a win-win!
  • Connect on and off the court, gain trust. This is player to player, coach to coach, as well as player to coach. Wolter says that once you gain trust, your players will run through walls for you.
  • Encourage problem-solving among players. Rather than coaches always stepping in, Wolter empowers her players to stretch their leadership wings.

Want more articles about creating a culture? Here you go!

Creating A Connected Culture
Creating A “No Excuses” Culture On Our Teams
6 Steps To Creating A Passionate Team Culture

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!