Building a culture is such an important process for a coach, but it's certainly not an easy one. As much as we talk about the importance of the coach's philosophy and the environment that we want to create, in order for a culture to be really meaningful and sustainable, it has to be driven by the players. The process of getting players to shape the process and collectively agree on the direction that everyone is going to move in, can be an extremely challenging one for coaches. We can easily fall into 'school teacher' mode where we deliver a set of rules and guidelines while everyone nods their heads in agreement. Likewise, if we decide to approach it in a different way, we can get frustrated when we ask players to give their input only to see everyone suddenly put their heads down and hope they are not the unfortunate ones called upon. Therefore, it takes a great level of skill from a coach to facilitate the conversations and shift the focus, both effectively and efficiently, towards an area where you can get clarity in what everyone wants to achieve together.
I came across this presentation by US Soccer ENT Technical and Grassroots Director Stuart Sharp from a Modern Soccer Coach Conference in Atlanta in 2017. Stuart was detailing the process of building a culture with the US Paralympic National Team. I love this because of the level of creativity Stuart goes to in order to shape the conversation. The examples of dogs is an indirect way for players to give their views on the team, without perhaps the threat of self-interest and bias. Once that process begins, he then brings it back to the individual, where each player starts a little bit of introspection into who they are and what they bring to the team. The fact that it's about dogs and not directly about players can also engage players in a different way than the traditional 'team talks' that they have sat through in the past. I was privileged to spend a week with Stuart and his team at a training camp in Florida last year, and the level of ownership and responsibility from the players was phenomenal. Below is a short video from the presentation which is perhaps a little clue into how to build that initially.