Episode 2 – Let’s Talk Culture

Your Sports Resource

Join Renata in ‘Let’s Talk Culture’ as she discusses how youth sports clubs can purposefully transform their culture for the better. She provides practical ways to design behavior statements and how to make them part of your club ethos so they become actions of habit. As we all know nothing happens overnight and nothing happens without purposeful intention, Renata discusses how to persevere in shifting your youth sports club’s culture.

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00:00:03 Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource podcast, where each week we’ll discuss strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.


Welcome everyone, my name is Renata Porter, and today on the Your Sports Resource Podcast we’re going to talk about culture.


Culture really doesn’t come up much when you’re thinking about youth sports. Club leadership will recognize that there are issues within the leadership or their ability to get initiatives off the ground. But, ensuring that there’s a positive culture really doesn’t enter into the minds of how to solve problems.


Usually, the focus is on the issues and there’s never a consideration that there’s a bigger opportunity or problem to solve that will make solving the individual issues or gaps much easier. And that is club culture.


So, what is culture? To oversimplify it, it’s the attitudes and behaviors of an organization, easy enough. But recognizing that behaviors aren’t all that great and doing something about them. Not so easy.


We think that because I do this, or that a couple of you do certain things that everyone else should just fall in line or everyone should just know or understand, right? So, common sense, but common sense doesn’t always equal common practice.


Unfortunately, there’s much more to it than that, especially if you’re trying to change or improve a really bad situation, and this is where people get hung up.


It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about culture or trying to lose weight or quit smoking, it doesn’t matter what it is, nothing happens overnight. And nothing happens without purposeful intention.


So, what do I mean by purposeful intention?


My personal experience with clubs has led me to believe that outlining specific behaviors that meet your values is a great way to start.


It takes the generic, undefined, good behavior and makes it specific. And my idea of good behavior is going to be very different than your idea, and we both might be speaking from a personal point of view, meaning that what we’re thinking is not appropriate for the organization.


So, my suggestion is to come together as a leadership group, so that’s your operational side and your coach’s side. The entire leadership team should work through 5 to 10 specific behavior statements.


These behavior statements must be appropriate for everyone, and by that, I mean the athletes, the parents, the staff, the volunteers, and the board. Everyone. It has to go from top to bottom or left to right.


My hope is that you will have done your vision statement already and you understand your values. Your behavior statements should be organized around your Club’s core values. Let me explain.


If you have a behavior statement that says, be punctual, present, and prepared, can you see how that is an action that can be modeled by every role in the organization? And if everyone models this behavior, does it create an ethos where people respect each other’s time? So, the value this behavior falls under is respect, does that make sense? So let me give you some more examples.


Let me share two different clubs’ behavior statements for integrity. So, Integrity was their value. One club said, honor your commitments and be accountable for your actions. Another club said, own your actions.


Do you see how those can apply to the athletes, to the board, to the coaching staff, to any volunteer?


And how about two different club behavior statements for passion as the value? Which is really interesting that a few of the clubs that I have worked with has chose passion as a value. It’s something that I would have never thought of, and I would never put forward. I, actually the first time we went through this thought it was really kind of silly that that was a value statement, but as working with the clubs, you know, I’ve learned that passion and having passion for youth sports is essential to be successful on an individual and team level.


So, two statements for passion, bring positive energy is the first one, and the next one is pursue your goals by finding your joy.


Great behavior statements, very specific you can understand them, right. And as you listen to the behavior statements I’ve given you, I’m sure you could visualize the behavior. And that’s the point I’m trying to get to with being purposeful, you can’t just say do what’s right and good. According to who? Be specific.


Test each statement to make sure it’s appropriate for everyone. Your board, staff, volunteers, parents, athletes, everyone.


OK, let me take a moment to tell you about yoursportsresource.com. This is a website that is dedicated to the volunteers and leadership staff in youth sports. There’s a ton of free resources on topics such as board roles, and items on fundraising and marketing for your club.


Your Sports Resource also holds monthly interactive webinars that can help you focus your efforts and put plans into action. The website again is yoursportsresource.com.


OK, the next step is to take the written behavior statements and put them into action. Put them up, share them, make them visible everywhere you can. At practice whether it’s a permanent or a temporary sign that’s put up at every practice, on your website, in your parent’s handbook. In your board papers. Anywhere and everywhere that makes sense. After you’ve presented those behavior statements so they’re out in the open, then you have to purposely speak about the behavior statements.


I tell the clubs I work with, that it will feel forced. It’ll feel awkward at first, but the more that the coaches, and the staff, and any important volunteers, or all volunteers, the more that they preach the behavior, the more it becomes part of everyone’s vocabulary.


And the more that you will see others pick it up, they’ll pick up that vocabulary and start using it with each other. So how do you do that?


First, the leadership needs to model it. They need to model that behavior, be punctual, present and prepared, right? They need to show up on time no matter where it is, whether you’re a board member or coach or an expectation of an athlete.


Call it out in others. I love how everyone’s on deck on time and ready to go. It’s going to be a great practice, right? It’s a simple way to call it out. If someone forget something or does something wrong and admits to it, call it out. Thank you for owning your actions, right? That’s a simple way for establishing the behavior around integrity.


These behaviors should also be rewarded and corrected, so use them as your guidelines and rewards don’t need to be, you know, in the fashion of a concrete thing. It can be something like, all right, because everyone was prepared for your board meeting today, we’re done 15 minutes early, which means, hey, we might make it home for dinner.


And if any of you have served on a board, you know how frustrating it is when people show up and haven’t pre-read any of the reports or documentation. You end up spending way more time giving and listening to the reports then you do having a proper discussion about those reports and making decisions, but I digress anyways.


So, correcting behaviors really becomes easier when you have behavior statements based against values, right?


A lot of clubs suffer from poor behavior from parents and our coaches, and what’s expected will now be in front of them, right? That’s not how we do things here at XYZ Soccer, we expect you to honor your commitments and be accountable for your actions. And that statement is as appropriate to the coach as it is to the parent or everyone else.


Now I do follow-ups with a lot of my clients just to see how things are progressing and one of my first very proud moments was watching a coach tell everyone in the meeting how one of the swimmers was acknowledging another using the words from the behavior statements and he told me that at first it did really feel awkward and that now it’s just part of the everyday conversation. It just finds a way to come through.


And that is key, once the words and actions become expected. They become habit. Then you’re living up to the club values and you’re creating a positive culture.


Now the last thing I want to talk about is consistency and recognizing that behaviors will not change overnight. Just like anything else worthwhile, it takes time, and you really have to be purposeful in your efforts to make changes. Especially if you’re a club that has a tremendous amount of bad behavior you’re trying to shift.


You may feel like you’re beating your head against the wall. Saying the same things over and over again, I typically recommend two to three behavior statements per value. That way you can kind of, come at it from several different ways, and if you have five values then that is anywhere from 10 to 15 behavior statements that you can have in rotation at any time.


That means there’s a lot to pull from when you’re trying to change the culture, you’re not trying to say the same thing over and over again, rotate what you’re talking about, but keep saying it. Keep modeling behaviors, keep recognizing and rewarding the right behaviors, and as much as consistency and perseverance will help you. You really won’t have success until you also utilize accountability.


Hold yourself and everyone else involved. Accountable for modeling the behaviors. If you have a dissenter among the ranks, address it immediately. It doesn’t matter who they are, and honestly, I would be telling you this, whether we were having a cultural conversation or not, the quickest way to lose trust and respect is to let those who are doing things right watch those who are getting away with doing something wrong.


That’s when apathy starts to sneak in, and when you have people who don’t care, that’s a whole different conversation. But it breeds negativity and really, really hard to correct.


OK, so to sum it up, if you’re looking to improve your club culture across the board, that means you need to get real about the behaviors that you want displayed and modeled from day to day.


The leadership team needs to work through those behavior statements. And put them front and center. Then work hard to embed them through modeling, calling out, rewarding, correcting. If you could do this, then you are well on your way.


Thank you for listening. I appreciate you being here. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast and even comment or ask a question. I would love to hear from you.


Over the next couple episodes, we’re going to talk about brave leadership questions to ask your team how to set your vision and values, and I think we’ll talk about fundraising as well.


Don’t forget you can find more resources on yoursportsresource.com


This is Renata, and thank you for spending time with me.