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Culture Series - Pt. 5/5


If this is your first time reading my blog, feel free to start with part one of this five part series on building a positive team culture!

I couldn’t pick just one for this last post about building a positive team culture so here are two:

Leaders Develop Leaders

There is a saying “people don’t know what they don’t know.” I go into every basketball season with that mindset and do my best to teach everyone what I expect in regard to our culture (behavior), team standards (expectations, effort/attitude). During our accountability circle at the end of practice, I praise all of the players who exemplify our team motto: “Play Together. Outwork Everyone.” I empower them to lead the warm-up stretches, hold each other accountable, and to care about one another. A few instances of our team taking ownership during the season:

  • During a game, I called a timeout because the other team was working harder than us and we needed a reset. The only player on our team who was working really hard said to me, “We need to play harder… We are winning and playing down to their level.” He was right. I asked if he wanted to communicate this to the team. He was surprised and said, “Can I?” and I replied, “Of course.” He spent the 60 second timeout sharing his thoughts and speaking from the heart because he knew we were capable of so much more. Our team stepped up after that timeout and it was a great moment of leadership.

  • Another example was at the end of our season when we were winning a game. A few of our players who didn’t get much playing time were in the game with a few players who played a lot. One player in particular hadn’t scored a basket during a game the entire season. Without asking me, a veteran player called a play for his less experienced teammate. They told him play point guard, set a high ball screen, and he drove in and scored a very difficult layup. Our team started cheering so loud in excitement for him! After the game ended, his teammates sprinted over and lifted him up in the air to celebrate!! For our team to share that moment of genuine happiness for a team member made me a very proud coach because it showed how much they cared about each other.

  • I learned about this player-led concept from a conversation I had with a coaching friend of mine. We had a player-led practice. This meant that the coaches did not plan any of the practice and our players had full control over the practice plan. This was the only practice of the season that I was not able to attend. I had made plans about four months earlier to go to my twin brother's basketball game in NY. Instead of canceling the practice, we asked our two most consistent leaders to work together to create a practice plan that was solely run by them and they agreed. I have access to film from practices and was able to watch it a few days later…the two leaders did great and the team followed their plan! A lot of trust among everyone was built that day!

Play with JOY

In order to experience joy, you need to live in the moment. You need to believe in what you are doing and be ALL IN. In the game of basketball, joy can be found in things like scoring a basket, getting a block, or taking a charge! Joy can also be found in sitting on the bench and cheering for your teammates as they contribute positive things on the court. The mentality of, “when we score, we all score” is something that took us a while to fully believe in but eventually it came to fruition. Players on the bench clapping, jumping up and down, etc. after a teammate did something good on the court helpd create a culture of enJOYment! Smiling and laughing while also competing with 100% effort is what brings people together and makes anything you are doing fun! We definitely had a lot of moments of shared adversity but also moments of togetherness and fun!

Overtime Section: Being vulnerable is a strength not a weakness.

We had a classroom team building session about halfway through the season. Without going into too much detail, we created a safe space where everyone has the choice to speak up and share their perspective about a specific topic. We created a safe space team contract where we discussed rules for the session and then we all signed it. That 60 minute session brought all of us closer together and added an extra layer of empathy and support for one another. The biggest rule was “Challenge by choice” and anyone could say “pass” if they did not want to share. Our team showed so much strength and it was one of the best moments I have experienced with a team…and the vibe from our team the next day at practice felt like an energized united front! Take the time to create an environment where your team can learn about you and they can learn more about each other…it is a game changer!

Double Overtime Section: Measuring Success

Did your team have fun?

Did each individual improve their basketball and leadership skills?

Does every player want to return next season to play?

That is how you measure success…not the scoreboard.

Remember, you have to fight for your culture…every single day.

I hope you enjoyed this 5 part series and feel free to reach out anytime!


Thank you for reading and please feel free to reach out if I can help in anyway!

Sending positive vibes,

Dan Horwitz

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