By Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
Team culture is one of the single-most important aspects to get right within a rugby team. For this discussion, let’s define team culture as “how a team does business.” When a team has a strong team culture, the player’s experience is rich and the team successful. By the same token, when team culture is underdeveloped or built with misguided values, the player experience and team performance ultimately suffers. In this piece we will look at some basic examples of how a team can build a strong team culture.
Teams conduct business in several operational ways. One such area is team travel. Team culture influences whether or not a uniformed team dress code is required and enforced. Team culture also influences polite behavior and self-awareness while travelling. Although being courteous in public does not require much effort, establishing a team expectation on public behavior does. When players arrive on time for team meetings with notebook and writing utensil in hand, that’s another example of team culture. If the assembly is an on-field training session, players arrive kitted out and focused, ready to learn.
Another important component of a successful team culture is how the players interact socially within the team. Just as the players are required to be respectful to those outside the team when travelling, so should team members treat each other with respect. In high-performing teams, there are no duty boys or “rookies” solely responsible for performing menial tasks. Everyone pitches in when the culture is right.
In successful team culture, players are responsible. They can be counted on regardless of the circumstances. They are also accountable, both for their positional assignments on the field and their actions/behaviors off it. A healthy team culture differentiates between being tired and being lazy. Team culture recognizes that when players are operating at their physical and mental limits, they will tire, but being tired is never an excuse to be lazy.
A rewarding team culture believes in the importance of shared sacrifice. Shared sacrifice can include anything that involves the entire team doing something hard, together. Shared sacrifice is similar but separate to another team culture cornerstone, “team first, self last.” “Team first, self last” is a mentality that shapes all decisions. “Whatever is best for the team” is the player’s attitude who understands the importance of team culture.
Being insatiable for improvement is a key component in a high-performing team culture. When each and every player is laser focused on daily performance improvement, any goal is within reach.
These are just a few simple examples that both coaches and players can promote. Reinforce the behaviors that help to foster a positive team culture, and eliminate those that don’t.
Unfortunately, the recently leaked report of England’s Rugby World Cup campaign epitomizes what happens when team culture isn’t as strong as it should be. With all the resources available to England, there were several team briefings about going out at night, social media, and not jumping off a ferry boat. A meeting on what to do and not do doesn’t create a winning team culture; coaches and players do.
How a team conducts its business is everyone’s job. The most inexperienced players on the team can contribute to the team culture by mirroring the behaviors that are valued within the team culture. If the young guns are looking for direction, it is the senior player’s role to demonstrate through their actions how business is to be carried out. This obviously wasn’t the case in Martin Johnson’s camp.
Creating and promoting a solid team culture can be the difference in more than just winning or losing. It defines who you are.
HAVE YOUR SAY...How has the team culture developed with your rugby team? What does the team do to keep team culture positive? Talk about team culture below.
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