By: John Klessinger - South River High School (MD)
Being a successful organization is all about developing a thriving culture. An organization without a positive culture may thrive in the short term but hardly ever sustains itself for long. Plenty of teams are "one-hit wonders." They have enough talent to win for a year or two. Then, slowly the success dwindles, replaced with apathy and complacency. Apathy, by definition, is a lack of emotion. In the sports world, it means that teams have become content and have lost their desire to continue to grow and flourish. That mindset becomes a program killer. There are several reasons why a team stops progressing. The apparent reason is the talent pool dried up. However, when you look deeper, it is usually because the culture either diminished or wasn't established in the first place.
What do I mean by a program's culture? Firstly, it is the common bond that keeps your team together. At South River, the common bond focuses on becoming better people through wrestling. It is a concept I preach from the start until the end. With 100% honesty, our culture is about developing people first. Wrestlers second. Trust me, you will win if you focus on developing people first. You will experience pitfalls often. That is the nature of coaching. Most cultures go through adversity and become better because of it. The ones that don't, well, as I said, probably haven't established a thriving culture.
Secondly, when I think about culture, I think about our program's mission. It is about developing people first. That is the overarching theme. Specifically, for us, that is working hard, focusing on improvement (instead of winning), and being good people. That is both the expectation in my program and the standard. So I will not allow deviation from the mission. That is the foundation, and if the foundation is weak, the rest of the structure is also vulnerable.
The question is, how do we develop a winning culture? By winning, I am not necessarily referring to your record and stats. Indeed, that is a part of any program and why we even compete. However, winning matches or games is a by-product of a strong culture. Winning becomes like your mission. It becomes your expectation and standard when you have an established culture in place.
Below are six ways to grow your program into a winning culture.