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Cultivating a Winning Team Culture for Success

"Cultivating a Winning Team Culture for Success" looks to explore the pivotal aspects of a coach's role in promoting leadership, communication, building relationships, handling success and failure, creating a learning environment, and influencing team dynamics. 


It was presented by Kim Gallagher in April 2024 as a part of the USA Hockey coaching education mentor program to help those who invest their time in being a part of our collaborative, and growing, coaching community. Here is a brief overview of the presentation and guide.



Role of Culture in a Positive Youth Sports Experience

  1. Promote Inclusivity – as leaders, and adults, ensure that every youth student-athlete, regardless of their background or skill level, feels included, valued, and has an equal opportunity to participate and grow.


  1. Be a Strategist and a Teacher of Skills – Coaches provide technical and tactical instruction tailored to the developmental and age level of the athlete, ensuring a solid foundation in the sport. Think Long Term Athlete Development, promoting competition, understanding team identity, and individual growth – but not at the expense of player development.


  1. Motivators and Supporters – inspire and encourage athletes to set and achieve personal and team goals. Try to understand and maintain their enthusiasm and passion for the sport. Help athletes cope with the peaks and valleys of sports, including managing stress, disappointment, and building confidence.


It’s important to remember that the athlete’s experience is the team’s culture. And to think about the experience for their family, the coaches, officials, volunteers, and all those involved in the game.



Be Proactive:  What ingredients are we adding intentionally to our team or club’s culture? If we put positive culture to the forefront, transformation will happen. And conversely catalytic, if negativity is promoted. 


As leaders in our communities, we want to build an environment for kids that they want to play in. Naturally that comes along with encouraging sportsmanship, development, and competition for players, but also thinking about the environment and culture for their parents and families. What does that environment look and feel like for coaches, managers, volunteers, and the surrounding community?  Think about the same for first time hockey parents, socioeconomically-limited families? How do we create an inclusive environment for everyone involved in the game?


Think about what it might be like for a first-time hockey parent signing their child up for their first ice session with your club.  Do parents know players tend to show up 30 minutes before the ice time starts? Do they know how to put equipment on properly? Do they know skates need to be sharpened out of the box? If a family gets surprised by the cost of hockey and its equipment, do they know there are two Try Hockey For Free Days each year? Or that most clubs tend to loan out equipment?


˙ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ʇuǝɹǝɟɟıp ɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ʇɐ ƃuıʞooן ʎɹT – Think about different perspectives in advance and how we might be able to help.



The Coach’s Role in Creating Culture: Coaches aim to guide young athletes not just in sports skills but also in character development, setting a strong example in behavior, attitude, and ethics. 


Team Values – As a leader, become the team's foundation, shaping how athletes interact with each other, handle competition, and approach challenges.

Example: Coach Jeff Blashill’s “Hello Culture” where he makes it a point to say “Hello” to every player, team member, and person he encounters. 


Post Guide Reflections:


What are the key roles of a coach in shaping a positive youth sports experience?


How would a player describe your team’s culture to someone outside of your club?


What values and expectations have you established, and how do you ensure they are aligned with personal values and daily implementation? 


How do you involve the team in creating the team culture and ensuring they take ownership of it?


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