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Athlete Blog

Impacting a culture

November 8, 2016


It’s early in the fall. The winds are starting to kick up, students are starting to wear sweatshirts and jeans, and the leaves are starting to change colors.

I remember walking in a line between my teammates, and then I see a pile of jerseys. I had just stepped onto campus as an unproven student-athlete. We were picking up our uniforms and numbers. I was in the back of the line and I was praying furiously that the pile of uniforms still had number 22 in it. Then I see the guy in front of me leave, and atop the pile of uniforms, I saw 22. Then I realized that the minute I put the jersey on, everything I do from that point will play a role in changing the team culture the next four years.

It’s the little things.

On a daily basis, even the smallest thing you do will have a tremendous impact on your team’s culture down the road. It can mean your body language. Body language is contagious. If you continue to sulk around campus under gray skies, your teammates are going to be affected by it. If you walk around campus with your head high, walk purposefully, and smile…your teammates and friends around you will notice. They oftentimes follow suit.

How you respond to certain things such as the coaches saying “get on the line” will affect how the team’s culture views adversity. The difference between a heavy sigh and a loud “let’s go” will shift your team culture dramatically and become the difference between a dominant workout or a terrible one. If you are presented with a horrible workout, you can “embrace the suck” and dive right into it or say “oh man, this is going to be awful…” and this will impact how the team as a unit views things. If you’re complaining about a workout, then how will you react when you play against a nationally ranked team?

Your daily language, how you talk to people in general, and talk about competition will dictate your team culture for the rest of the year. Some of the best language I’ve seen from some of the best leaders had powerful words peppered all over their daily conversations. “Dominated,” “crushed” and “attacked” were common words when it came to workouts, practices and even homework assignments. People will adopt what you say, and that slowly elevates their views of success, which in turn brings the team culture to expect dominance in every aspect of the student-athlete life.

It’s the big things, too.

How you address the team, especially as you become a veteran member of the team, will impact how your team goes about its business. The younger guys will be looking to you to set an example on how to work in the classroom, on and off the playing field, and behave amongst the campus body. If you maintain the positive team culture, the university’s core values in all that you do, and walk the walk in front of your team…the team will be going places.

In a lifetime, especially during the undergraduate years, there will be a few “leadership moments” that unexpectedly fall on your lap. It could be when your team gets in trouble, is down in the dumps, or isn’t performing to the program’s standards…you have the opportunity to turn things around. It can mean stepping up and taking on a leadership role when someone else can’t carry the weight. It can mean a pep talk. It can mean performing beyond your physical and mental capabilities to push other teammates to do the same. You have to be able to recognize the “leadership moments” and act upon it immediately. Your actions can make or break a culture in the long run.

You can tell your teammates to do this, that, believe in this or that, and all. But you have to be able to practice what you preach. If you preach a certain “culture” or mentality, you should be embodying it as best as possible. You’re talking the big talk; you better be walking the big walk as well.

If you’re able to do the little things right, say the right words, act upon leadership moments, and walk the walk…I can’t wait to see your championship rings.

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