A team is defined by a group of people who work together for a common purpose. But what makes a team successful? What makes it thrive?

Based on my experience as an Assistant Coach, I’ve found that there are three essential elements in a great team: character, credo, and, consequently, culture. I say “consequently” here because culture doesn’t just exist – it’s developed and enforced by people. You can’t have a solid team culture without hard-working individuals and set team values. The character and credo of all players is thus vital in creating a culture that produces a well-oiled machine, a true team, if you will.

In building an effective team, it’s ideal to have players who have a high work rate. But what’s equally as important is that those players are kind, caring, and overall good people – to know to look out for one another on and off the field. Having a team of people with good character will naturally build a healthy culture of kindness which is just as important as competition. And what is character often built on? Positive values.

Your values run your team – they set expectations without having any rules in place. It’s what drives the behavior and conduct of each player. Ask yourself: “What are my personal values? And how do they fit in with my team?” By thinking about what you value in your own life, you can apply them to the team that you’re a part of – you’ll notice that they may already even be aligned. The values that support my coaching style are gratitude, commitment, support, trust, growth, and accountability. There’s a simple saying that’s resonated with me and my team recently (displayed now on top of my coaching desk): “Work hard and be kind.” It’s key to define your team’s culture based on what you really believe in.

Hand’s in! Coach Kell With the UMASS Women’s FH team

To sum it up, a group of committed people with common beliefs is a recipe for excellent team culture, one that helps a team become well connected within itself. And here’s my advice for coaches. Building such a team culture can be difficult, but a good start is to use positive reinforcement. Recognizing good behaviors and rewarding them can facilitate that kind of positive energy in a team and keep everyone going. And most importantly, this practice must be inclusive of everyone. Everyone should feel valued because everyone matters, from those who play every minute to zero minutes in a game. Not one teammate should be deemed “more” or “less” than the next.

And to players? I’ll just say one thing. When there’s a team-bonding opportunity (be it volunteering, learning new skills, or even hanging out), embrace the experience and watch your team grow stronger.

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