Culture Journey Week #4

Leadership Meeting Part 1 of 4 – Excellence in Practice

This week we had our 2nd leadership meeting with the players. As a reminder, in our first meeting we brainstormed about what our goals were for this team, and then decided to break down the next 4 meetings into diving into some actionable improvements as follows:
1 – Excellence in Practice
2 – Commitment & Accountability
3 – Communication
4 – Keep eye on the prize: Team>Individual

Excellence in practice
We went through our practice schedule from start to finish and came up with the following improvements to implement immediately. The head coach joined us for this session, but let me lead the session and let the players do 98% of the talking. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Communication: I asked the players if any of them knew all of the other players names, particularly the new kids. None of them did. They agreed to make an effort to learn every players name, and equally important to start calling each other by name as they communicate. This included the coaches. Instead of ‘Hey Coach,…’ they committed to ‘Hey Coach Craig,…’ They also committed to try to call one of the new kids by name each practice and tell them they are glad they are here.
  • Not cutting corners: We start each practice by jogging 4 laps around the field. There are varying speeds with the athletes, and I asked if we should run this together or continue to run in small groups based on speed. This was a really interesting discussion, but they agreed there was a social aspect to hanging out with their buddies and didn’t find it important for practices to run as a group. They did agree that for pre-game runs they should do it together, just not for practice. The one area they did agree was to stop cutting the corners on the runs. If the lines weren’t obvious, they asked for 4 cones for the fastest runner to lay out the first time he goes around the field.
  • Organize the ball-hunt: In lacrosse there are usually several times in each practice where you send the team out to go look for stray and lost balls. Two improvements they came up with: 1 – If you make a wild pass or shot, regardless of the drill, you should immediately chase your own. 2 – They came up with a system to organize how the balls are retrieved instead of chaotically throwing them back towards the middle.
  • Positive energy – We discussed the importance of having fun while working hard. I asked if they wanted to end practices having a couple players share something good they saw someone else do in practice. There were a few who expressed concerns of ‘sappy’ or ‘cheesy’ to this, but they all talked and agreed it was worth a try.
  • Practice attendance – Since it’s an optional fall session, we agreed that there were excusable reasons for missing practices. But random inconsistency was agreed upon as not being acceptable. Several players suggested punishments for kids who miss such as running laps. i threw out there the idea of instead of punishing unexcused absences, instead creating a reward for players who didn’t miss practices. We came up: Players who have no unexcused absences that week get to participate in a scrimmage that will be the last 45 minutes of our last practice of the week. Players who have an unexcused absence will do other drills during that time. An unexcused absence was defined as any absence where the player has not emailed our head coach ahead of time explaining why he would miss practice.

It was fun to watch the team during our next practice implement some of these new procedures. Particularly calling other players by name. Of course being high-schoolers they over-emphasizes this sarcastically, but it still added a fun element to the practice. There is slowly starting to be a more fun, positive culture. It’s amazing how just talking about everything is starting to have a positive effect on the team. Next week we’ll talk more about commitment and accountability.

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: We recently had our first meetings this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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