The Westview High School volleyball team may have had a winning 2018 season—not to mention the best postseason in their team’s history—but coach Nancy Ros and her players are celebrating their team bond just as much as their rankings.
Ros, who’s been coaching at Westview for 12 years, knows a strong culture attracts and retains players. Her coaching philosophy is centered around a positive team culture, with a team mission statement to “love the game, learn the game, earn your game.”
A winning season didn’t always look likely for Westview. While the team had high hopes at the beginning given the high amount of returning seniors, close losses to highly competitive teams paired with some serious injuries early on in the season threatened morale. But the team was able to stay in good spirits and turn things around by leaning on each other.
“The culture of always striving for excellence but keeping that family atmosphere of being in it together win or lose, helped us fight through what felt like pretty bad losses at the beginning of the season.”
Nancy Ros, Head Volleyball Coach
This culture has led to the team’s growth. In Ros’s first years of coaching, the varsity team usually maxed out at 12 players. Now, she takes 16.
Of this year’s 16 varsity players, 11 were seniors who stuck with the sport since their freshman year. Other programs, Ros said, generally have six or seven seniors, but Westview’s high player retention—70 percent from freshman to senior year—contributes to their experienced team.
Ros has always incorporated video into her coaching, as it plays a key role in creating a positive team culture. When players see themselves having fun or succeeding, Ros said, it helps spark their love of the game.
Westview’s emphasis on loving the game is supported by its players’ drive to improve individually and shape their own playing careers. The result is a culture that prioritizes teamwork and growth over winning and stats.
Every team benefits from a positive team culture. Luckily, there are things Westview does to cultivate a culture that any team can emulate.
1. Create accountability.
“You either get better by practicing or you get better by watching yourself and other people,” Ros said.
By giving players access to match film, coaches establish the expectation they’ll watch and critique their own performance outside of team review. This helps reinforce the lessons student-athletes are learning in the classroom and builds skills they’ll need later in life.
Senior Kayla de los Reyes, outside hitter, relies on video to prep for games.
“I have a free period every school day, and I use that time to look through games on Hudl,” de los Reyes said. “Right now I just look for the little things, like keeping on my toes or making sure I’m far back. It’s really helpful before games because I can focus on certain things as I’m playing.”
Reviewing match film independently keeps Westview players focused on their personal improvement as much as the team’s. Players dedicated to pulling their own weight serve as positive examples and support an environment where everyone gives their best effort. And it’s paying off in the classroom too—Westview’s varsity team averaged a GPA of 3.7.
2. Teach self-awareness.
You can tell a player what they need to improve on until you’re red in the face, but sometimes it doesn’t stick until they get a visual. When players see themselves in action, they develop mindfulness of everything from technique to body language. They can use this realization to self-correct both on and off the court.
While she reviewed video on Hudl, one Westview player noticed her negative expression and body language following a bad play or move. Ros said that player worked to improve her nonverbal cues and avoid negatively affecting her teammates’ attitudes. This alone had a huge impact on creating a positive environment for the whole team.
3. Give ownership.
Buy-in from players has a big impact on team culture. When athletes are accountable for their own development and gain a sharp awareness of their performance, they feel a sense of ownership.
Providing athletes the tools to own their recruitment experience is another way to empower them. For Westview, that tool is video.
Ros has her players create highlights at the beginning of the season and update them each week to keep them fresh. Since college coaches receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a week, she said persistently sending new clips pays off.
“It's helped a ton with athletes feeling like they have more power to be recruited.”
Nancy Ros, Head Volleyball Coach
Giving players that control is important given the heavy competition for spots on college teams—less than six percent of high school volleyball players go on to play in college.
4. Increase enjoyment.
It’s not all about getting better or getting noticed. Ros said seeing funny moments on video is important to the team’s culture. The team usually creates a highlight reel of its “bloopers”—with clips of players tripping or taking balls to the face—throughout the season to look back on.
Winning is important, but so is having fun. Tools like video contribute to team culture by helping help players improve or attract attention, but they also preserve memories and strengthen the team’s bond. Remember that while it may not be possible to win every match, it is possible to give every player an experience they’ll fondly look back on.