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High-Performance Culture

As a coach, you probably want your athletes to work their hardest every day. Whether in practice or competition, in the weightroom or on the field of play, you expect your players to give their all in everything they do. But many times, purely making this expectation known isn’t enough to create a fire and drive in athletes. To get the most out of a team, coaches need to not only explain their expectations, but also take steps to create a high performing culture.

How can a coach do this? In a blog for High School Strength, Steve Canter, former high school and college football coach, offers a few tips for establishing a high performing attitude and culture on your team. First, he explains that coaches need to practice what they preach. That means that they should be involved and visible during practice, and they should also be able to engage in the same activities that they are asking their athletes to do.

“You cannot properly establish an energetic, enthusiastic, or high performing culture from your office, from a seated position on the nearest empty bench, or scrolling through your social media feeds,” writes Canter. “The student-athletes take notice, and they will follow your lead. If you want high performance, you must be the leader. Be there, be engaged, be energetic, and be consistent.”

Creating a high performing culture means not only engaging with players, but also holding everyone accountable to your expectations. According to Canter, you, your athletes, and your staff should all be held to the same standards, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Examples could vary from making sure everyone follows a dress code, to having repercussions when someone arrives late to practice or a game.

“Whether a clean weight room or locker room is important to you, the act of forcing your athletes to place things back neatly in the place they found it is a powerful tool for establishing the responsibility and discipline you are looking for,” writes Canter. “It will not take long to identify who your leaders are when you call for the cleaning up at the end of a workout session.”

Grouping of athletes during practice can also help or hinder your attempts at creating a high performing culture. Canter suggests using the 10/80/10 principle to make the most of their practices. The top 10 percent are players who don’t need to be told multiple times what to do, follow the rules, and don’t need a lot of supervision. The middle 80 percent makes the up the majority of the team. These athletes might not completely understand all directions and probably need some assistance. They are also influenced easily.

The bottom 10 percent are those athletes who are more needy. They struggle to follow direction and adhere to the rules, which can negatively affect the middle 80%. Canter explains that coaches can use this principle to decide which players belong in each group. Then, do your best to group the top 10 percent with the middle group, as they will help positively influence them and possible even help those athletes rise to the top group. However, Canter warns against pairing athletes in the middle 80 percent with the bottom 10 percent.

“Avoid having bottom 10% athletes paired up with too many of your middle 80%, they are often strong enough influencers to pull down some of the middle 80% and now you are dealing with more issues,” writes Canter. “Firmly hold the bottom 10% to the requirements of our program and when you do see improvements in behavior or positive leadership, be sure to quietly acknowledge and positively reinforce.”

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