My basketball experience has been frustrating so far, especially as our team struggled over the last 6 games. We are a relatively young team with plenty of work ahead of us.
As I was thrown into the middle of this situation, the importance of team culture has been amplified. Over the last 9 years, I have experienced both exceptional and mediocre cultures. Competing in varying environments was one of the most rewarding parts of this game – it taught me how to follow, how to lead, and most importantly, how to build a successful organization.
Below is my vision of culture. I argue that these components are necessities for sustained group success in any capacity.
1. Exceptional Leadership
Coaches must instil confidence in players, and never deviate from the goals and values of the team. This extends beyond the strategic approach to the game. Coaches must have great knowledge of how to function on the court, but also understand the strengths and weaknesses of every player on the roster. This will optimize a player’s contributions through increased confidence, elevated responsibility, and autonomy over decision making.
Players must be able to sacrifice individual accomplishments for the success of the collective. I call this “leaving your ego at the door.” The best teams I played for had multiple players that could have averaged 20 points on a mediocre team. What made the team great was the players who made substantial sacrifices for the benefit of the whole group. That includes individual statistics.
This is, perhaps, the most important aspect of building a team. Players and coaches must welcome constructive criticism. Players cannot be afraid to call someone out. Holding yourself and your teammates accountable will minimize bad habits.
4. Relentless Effort
Hours in the gym and weight room are expected from great teams. Players should not have to be told to get shots up, lift weights, or work on conditioning. It has to be in their DNA. Inspiring an entire group to exert their maximum effort is not an easy task. If executed, strong results will likely follow.
5. Great Habits
Building strong habits starts before the season. It begins with players establishing team values, and following them religiously through everyday action. I argue that this is one of the most overlooked parts of success. This also includes perfecting the most basic parts of the game: layups, footwork, and defensive technique, to name a few. The best players I competed with or against demonstrated exceptional fundamentals. Building great habits requires close attention to mundane aspects of the game.
There are certainly parts that I left out from this list. But to me, these are the five that standout.