There’s a lot of talk about the brilliance of Brad Stevens and the plays that he runs coming out of timeouts. It seems as if the Celtics are constantly scoring out of timeouts. While Stevens certainly deserves the accolades he gets for his ATOs, that’s about 1% of the brilliance of him as a coach.
Stevens’ most impressive feat doesn’t having anything to do with coaching basketball X’s and O’s. It is building the culture that he has, both at Butler and now with the Celtics. The culture he’s built with his players allows him to demand their full attention during timeouts and they trust what Stevens is drawing up will work, then they go out and execute. They don’t question him, they don’t go on the court and try to do their own thing. They just go out there & do what their coach told them to do.
So what does it take to building your team’s culture?
Building Your Culture
Your players have to know that you care before they ever care what you know. Regardless of their successes, failures, and anything in between, your players should know that their leader cares about them as people. You should be building personal relationships with everyone in your program. Don’t just treat them as ‘one of your players,’ treat them like a person with compassion and care for what’s going on in their life.
Your players have to know that the leader has a full, 100% commitment to your program. They aren’t worried about outside forces affecting you, and they know you’re giving your blood, sweat, and tears to the program. If you want your players to be committed to your program and your culture, you certainly have to show them that you’re committed yourself. Otherwise, your culture will falter.
Not only should you be focused on your character as the leader of the program, you should be working to develop everyone in your program’s character traits. You can build these traits through mentoring programs, volunteering, reading guides and books, and setting a great example yourself.
You must hold yourself and your team accountable. If you expect your players in the gym by 2:00, and somebody shows up at 2:01, you must hold them accountable for being late. With that said, you better be showing up on time, too. Accountability goes far beyond just time, though. It’s about holding your players accountable for their actions on & off the court. If your players have a lack of accountability, that will lead us to our next point: discipline.
Discipline should be firm, fair, and consistent. The best players shouldn’t receive less severe punishments than the ‘worse’ players. That creates resentment within your program. Instead, discipline needs to be equal across the board, and the punishment should match the crime, no matter who commits it.
Anything less than maximum effort shouldn’t be tolerated. Players can’t make every shot go in, but they can always play as hard as they possibly can. Creating a culture where everybody gives the program their best effort will pay dividends.
Earning your players’ trust isn’t something that can be done overnight, but building a culture of trust is important. Your players have to trust that they have each other’s back, and they have to trust that you have their best interests in mind, too.
Embrace the Process
‘Trust the process’ is almost a buzz-term now, but it’s so true. It’s your job as the leader of the program to get your team to buy into focusing on the process, not the results. You can get your players to focus more on the process than results by praising their effort throughout practices and games, not their skill or talent.
Obviously, team culture is something that takes time to grow organically, and no two cultures will be exactly the same. The traits listed above are typically found in most positive team cultures, so we recommend placing an emphasis on them with your team.