When Culture Doesn’t Click (Part 1)

We have talked a fair amount about the culture of your athletic department. Developing a positive athletic culture is the most important thing that the athletic director can do. It takes leadership skills and extra work that many would deem unnecessary. The culture of a Christian school athletic department is especially important as we seek to use athletics to point our athletes to Christ. Unfortunately, though, despite the efforts of the athletic director and coaches, sometimes culture just doesn’t click. Then what?

TheAthleticDirectors.com looks to tackle this difficult concept in a three part series starting with this article. We would love to hear from our readers either in the comment or on twitter about some obstacles that you’ve faced in this area. We would also love to hear what you did to help remedy the situation.

Don’t Panic

This is easier said than done. The knee-jerk reaction would be to freak out. You put in all this hard work over the past school year to change the toxic, apathetic, or non-existent culture in your athletic department. Now you’ve reached the end and you don’t feel that you have anything to show for it.

Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and going over to the enemy of our imagination.” – Christian Nestell Bovee

The first thing to remember is that good culture takes time.

It’s way easier to build from a non-existent culture than to change negative culture. But both processes don’t correct overnight. It’s going to take a little while. It could be a year; it could be a few years.

Culture change is a marathon not a sprint. You can make up for lost time in a marathon. Also, you win the marathon in the second half. So don’t panic, put your head down, and keep grinding.

The second thing to remember is that good culture is complicated.

Establishing the positive athletic culture that you desire is going to be difficult. Think about it; major corporations hire firms to come in and do reports and suggest strategies to improve their corporate culture. These firms collect paychecks in the millions.

You’re not a corporation with hours of strategy and R&D in this area. You’re the lowly Christian school AD. Complex issues require intelligent strategies and big picture plans. Don’t panic.

The last thing to remember when you’re tempted to panic is that good culture is elusive.

Think of the best athletic culture that you’ve ever been a part of or experienced. Maybe it was visiting an opponent or at a camp or clinic. You sat in that environment and wished that your school and students could experience it.

Ok, so you’re thinking of it right? Good. Now remind yourself that their culture has problems too.

I know, that doesn’t really help you to keep from panicking. But it’s important to realize even that no athletic department or school is perfect. The main reason being that they are filled with people, and people are sinners.

So good culture is very much of a “white whale.” You will never catch your perfect version of culture because it’s impossible. So don’t panic that you aren’t where you want to be, because you never will be. The important thing is that you keep grinding towards it.

Recharge Your Batteries

The culture fight is a very draining one. Like a win in sports, good culture is a result of momentum. Momentum can be killed by one whistle, one injury, one mistake. You can have a great week, month, or season; feel the positive culture flowing; and then one singular event deals your programs a huge blow.

As you read that last paragraph, a few incidents from this last school year probably popped into your brain. Weren’t those struggles difficult? They take a lot out the person in charge. That’s why you need to recharge!

First in order to recharge from the culture battle is to relax.

Go on the family vacation that you’ve been planning. Take a break from the office. It’s summer vacation; use it to your advantage.

Even if you don’t travel, it’s scientifically proven  that time off and a reduction in responsibilities can positively affect you for the long run.

You’ll certainly need this as you gear back up to get the good culture to click at your school.

Second you need to visit positive culture.

Plan to spend some time in the right athletic culture. Even if it’s just for a few hours. This will definitely refresh your vision for what you seek to establish at your school.

Experience is the teacher of all things.” – Julius Caesar

Every summer, I look forward to taking our high school guys to Coach T’s Championship Basketball Camp at Lee University. Coach T has got culture figured out as well as any other coach that I know of. Hanging out there for a week with Coach T and the network of coaches that also attend is a huge boost for me.

Find a place to visit. Maybe apply to work at a bigger program’s summer activities. Either way immerse yourself in a good athletic culture.

Finally, we would encourage you to read.

Read. Read. Read some more. Highlight while you read. Take notes. Read for professional growth. Read for leisure. Read aloud. Read silently. Read in a box. Read with a fox. You get the point.

You improve your intelligence and creativity  by reading. You’ll need both of those things as you seek to tackle your culture goals for your athletic department.

You can make deposits in your own economy every day by reading and listening to powerful, positive, life-changing content and by associating with encouraging and hope-building people.” – Zig Ziglar


So those are the first two tips to help making culture click.

As you go into the summer: DON’T PANIC and RECHARGE.

In the next article we’ll look at analyzing the culture problem and why it isn’t clicking like you hoped.

Don’t forget to engage in the comments and hit us up on twitter.

Jeff is the athletic director at Victory Baptist Academy. He is also the founder and administrator of TheAthleticDirectors.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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