When Culture Doesn’t Click (Part 2)

This is the second article in this series. The goal is to help those of us who have been trying to establish or fix the culture of the athletic departments at our Christian schools. In the first article we talked about the need to keep things in perspective by not panicking. We also highlighted the need for relaxation in order to help us as athletic directors fight the daily battle of culture change. In today’s post we look to help you get to the root of why positive athletic culture didn’t click in your school’s athletic department.

There are many reasons why culture doesn’t click. As we said last week, it’s a complex problem with lots of moving parts. So where do you start? How do you figure out your next step? The last thing we want to do is spin our wheels.

We told you last week not to panic and to relax. Well, this week there is one word that you need to focus on: ANALYZE.

You need to analyze the situation before you move forward. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we move forward treating problems that are only symptoms. Look for the root causes of your culture disconnect.

Here are three things to do in order to help you ANALYZE the situation properly.


Ask Questions

This is the first step. You need to be honest with yourself and your department. Ask questions with the goal of getting to the problem in mind.

Ask both broad and specific questions. Broad questions will lead you in the right direction. Specific questions will help you pinpoint issues.

Broad Question: Are there interpersonal issues in the athletic department that I don’t know about?

Specific Questions: Is our cross country coach offensive to parents and athletes?


Broad Question: Do people have a negative opinion of budgetary and financial decisions?

Specific Question: Do we charge too much at the gate of our volleyball games?


Broad Question: Was our athletic department theme embraced and emphasized this year?

Specific Question: Do all of our athletes, coaches, and parents know the theme?


You get the picture. Be purposeful in your research. Too often we sit around tables at meetings and just ask the broad questions. We need to get more specific and not be scared to hurt some feelings (including yours).

Ask questions; your culture is at stake!


Identify the Culture Killers

No matter where you are and no matter how good or bad your culture is, you will have culture killers. The key is to know who and what they are and have a plan of attack.

Culture killers are like cancer. Here are just a few things that the two have in common:

  • harmful to the larger organism
  • multiply and spread rapidly
  • often unseen on the surface
  • often cannot be removed, but must be treated

The last point is especially true in Christian school athletic departments. Many times are schools are not large enough to cut players from teams. Other times we’re dealing with people (or the children of people) with which we minister and/or go to church. It’s a delicate situation.

Culture killers manifest themselves in two ways most of the time: people and policies.

When dealing with people that are culture killers, you have two options: get rid of them or work with them. Often we’re forced to do the latter.

Many times culture killing people aren’t aware of how their attitude or actions affect the big picture. You or one of the coaches need to make them aware of this and work with them. If they still refuse to change then you need to get rid of them. Even in a small program, you’re better off without them.

Other times the culture killer is a policy or procedure that has often times been in place for years.

Whenever culture is addressed in the corporate environment, the handbook and procedures are the first to get revised. People can smell hypocrisy and they always respond negatively. If you preach something from the AD’s office, than your policies need to back it up.

Figure out what culture killing hypocrisy or confusion is being caused by some policies and address them.

Identify and neutralize the culture killers!


Get Feedback

You’re the athletic director. Your job, unless you still coach teams on a regular basis, can cause you to actually become distanced from the people in your athletic department. For this reason, you need to insert yourself regularly into the scene to make sure things are going well. Get feedback about your athletic department.

Send them a Google survey. Have a suggestion box. Check in with different families. Host special times to just relax and get to know those in the athletic department.

You’d be surprised how much of your culture can change when people know that their voice is heard in your office. Develop a positive rapport with those that your department serves.

Get feedback in any and every way that you can.


Ok, so that’s the advice for today. Analyze your situation. Ask tough questions, identify and neutralize culture killers, and don’t be scared of feedback.


If you have any experiences, tips, questions, or thoughts on “When Culture Doesn’t Click,” please leave a comment or hit us up on twitter. This is a very dear topic to us, and we want to help as many Christian school ADs as we can.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *