How to build a positive culture with your athletes

A positive culture is certainly not built overnight. Be that as it may, creating such an environment for your athletes to evolve and reach their goals can have a huge impact on them; and, to you, too.

So, what can you do, as a sports coach, to achieve that? Let’s find out!

11 steps to build a positive culture

What is a positive culture? Simply put, it’s creating a background for athletes to feel heard, respected, supported, inspired, and motivated. Suffice it to say, the culture in which you work with your athletes is critical, because it can determine the success of your collaboration. And, this is how you can start building it: 

1. Identify your core business values

Identifying your core business values is critical because they can shape the right cultural framework for collaborating with your athletes. Indeed, your core business values can serve as the basic code of conduct. In this respect, they can be a guiding light for you and your athletes to achieve the goals you set together. And, when difficult times come, these values will help you and your athletes make important decisions and bounce back stronger.

2. Reflect on these values in your daily interactions

A failure to stick to one’s values in daily interactions is a sign of inconsistency of character. One cannot rely on — nor trust — such a character. That is to say, holding to your core business values in your coaching will gradually help you build rapport with your athletes. 

But, how can you reflect on your core values in your daily interactions? You can start by establishing a set of desired actions and behaviors that will help you keep these values in your mind. With time — and consistent effort — this set of values-based actions will become your modus operandi.

3. Define clear, consistent expectations for your athletes to build trust

Communicating expectations and identifying ways to work together with your athletes is vital to building trust and promoting a positive culture. To briefly explain, by defining roles and responsibilities for your athletes, you help them become accountable for their actions and behavior. This accountability will help them understand the role they need to fulfill in this collaboration. When everyone knows — and lives up to — their role and responsibilities, trust comes naturally.

4. Leverage empathy to build psychological safety

Empathy is key to creating a positive culture. because it shows your athletes that you care about their needs. For your athletes to trust you, they must feel safe with you. They must feel that you have their back. And this starts with empathetic coaching. 

5. Help everyone understand they’re valued

All people feel appreciated and supported when someone takes the time to understand and listen to them. Especially when this ‘someone’ is a figure with authority. The same happens with athletes. And, the simplest way to make them feel valued is to continuously offer them what they need: Support, guidance, and motivation (among other things).  

6. Collaborate, communicate, interact

To put it another way, get involved as much as possible in their training — that is, apart from designing their training plans. How? By:

  1. making yourself available to discuss their concerns, hopes, fears, and ideas, 
  2. making the most of every opportunity to interact and connect with them, and
  3. working with them toward a common goal.

7. Be transparent with how you can help and how they progress

Being transparent with your athletes is also an important part of building a positive culture. Incorporating transparency in your coaching style and processes will not only benefit your athletes, but your business as well. 

In simple terms, being transparent means:

  • Setting the tone for clear, honest communication.
  • Being clear to your athletes as to how you can help them overcome their challenges
  • Sharing your feedback freely — both positive and constructive.

8. Foster teamwork and personal connections

A coach who creates a welcoming environment for athletes to get together to share experiences, support one another, and connect is, indeed, a coach who creates a positive culture. Encourage your athletes to connect, and create a community where everyone feels like they belong.

9. Promote ethical behaviors, toward a positive culture

Without a doubt, the importance of sportspersonship is growing in sports. Promoting ethical behavior among your athletes will contribute greatly to creating a positive culture. Not only for your team of athletes, but for your industry too. Especially since people are prone to imitating behaviors. The best way to teach them sportspersonship is to model ethical sports conduct, yourself

10. Utilize a reward system toward excellence

Every athlete is unique, and it takes different motivational techniques to help each athlete achieve their full potential. Instead of making athletes feel bad for poor performance, use positive reinforcements, like celebrations and praise. A reward system based on praise and constructive feedback — in perfect balance — can bring notable results in athletic performance.

11. Evaluate their experience, as your clients

Coaching endurance athletes is a dynamic process. As a matter of fact, so is athletic progress. That’s why you need to evaluate their experience with your coaching style; as well as the outcome of your coaching practices on their performance. This will not only help determine whether you need to offer additional guidance or take adaptive actions but also build a positive culture where progress is a priority for everyone.

Remain authentic

Authenticity can certainly go a long way toward establishing a positive culture. Being authentic is simply being in tune with your true self. If you are yourself, your athletes will feel it and start being themselves, too. That’s how strong relationships are built. 

Abide by the lifestyle you promote and learn from mistakes

Along with authenticity, walking the talk and being willing to admit — and learn from —  your mistakes all are essential for maintaining a positive atmosphere among your athletes. 

Promote real work-life balance – or training-life balance

Good coaches support their athletes’ development and put all their focus on helping them achieve their goals. Great coaches, however, have a more holistic approach to supporting the development of their athletes, and this includes finding a healthy balance between training life and personal life.

TL;DR — Build a positive culture

In order to build a positive culture with your athletes, it is important to identify your core business values that can facilitate such an environment. An environment that motivates athletes to reach their goals. Consequently, you should use your daily interactions with them as an opportunity to model positive behaviors and emphasize how the values they’ll learn will benefit them both on and off the field.

How to build a positive culture with your athletes was last modified: November 15th, 2022 by Eleni Konstantinidou