See more in-game success by developing a positive culture in three steps.

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Sure, winning is important, but so is your players’ well-being. Just like positive teams are more productive in the workforce, they’re also more successful on the field or court. A good culture can develop naturally, but it’s up to coaches to create an encouraging environment. These three small steps can make a big impact on your team.

Measure Success beyond Ws and Ls

Whether or not your team has a winning season, it’s important for coaches to acknowledge the little wins, like your team executing certain plays better, or improving in a set of stats, along the way.

Individual improvement is another way to assess how far your team has come—like if the player who racked up the most penalties or fouls in your earliest games has cut that number in half by the end of the season.

Stats that align with your coaching philosophy are a good way to measure progress, but success can also be measured by your players’ individual and team efforts.

Involve the Entire Team

One of the key things students learn from high school athletics is the value of participation and teamwork. It’s easy to focus on your top performers, but great coaches find ways to make even their least skilled players feel like MVPs.

Be consistent in your interactions with players and find ways to involve your entire team (including the non-starters) in practices, workouts and game prep. Consider an exercise where players take turns discussing what each member brings to the team. This can reassure everyone that their contributions are key to the team’s success, no matter if it’s points scored or morale boosted.

Reinforce Good Behavior

On the team or individual level, positive reinforcement is generally more effective than punishment when it comes to changing behavior—and it creates a more constructive atmosphere on your team.

Players learn from your example. If they see you praising their teammates for good behavior rather than coming down on them for poor performance, they’re likely to do the same (even when you’re not around).

Take a few minutes in each review session to go over highlights—ideally before you begin the physical part of practice so the team is energized. Letting your players access game video helps them share these moments with their parents and friends, and giving them the opportunity to do this on their own will ensure you don’t need to devote too much important practice time to it.

For more ways to engage your athletes, check out our guide to building your coaching philosophy.