What Matters In Your Sports Culture?

If culture is the set of standards and values that guide an organization’s choices and actions then a challenge for all of us who work with young athletes or who support them is to be clear about what we value, what we think is important and what we’re wanting for them. Gaining that clarity takes time, effort and support in a culture that values speed over depth, places disproportionate value on short term gains and views challenges as obstacles to be removed or avoided rather than stepping stones or opportunities for growth.

034_34The realization that things take time, especially the development of human beings, is a hard one to come to in a culture that relies increasingly on technology to solve problems and provide quick, easy, convenient solutions. But, true growth, real development, the kind that can happen through our experience of athletics isn’t about solving problems or fixing things that are broken. It’s about transformation.

Transformation means that what we are on our way to becoming is not just a bigger version of who we are today. What we are on our way to becoming is not yet apparent. Transformation is about the development of potential and possibility. The swan isn’t apparent in the ugly duckling, the oak tree isn’t apparent in the acorn and the butterfly is nowhere to be found when we look at Acornthe caterpillar unless … we know better.  And, we do.



We are up to challenge. .  Canadian Sport for Life is implementing a model of Long Term Athletic Development providing resources and support for parents, coaches and players. The United States Ski and Snowboard Association is working hard to take the long view. In my area the folks at Breakaway AAA Hockey are totally focused on development and the results are impressive.

We can start by getting clear about what matters, about those values and standards.  Mike Robbins shares a story about a minor league baseball organization that asked coaches to introduce themselves not by trotting out their resumes but by talking about their most meaningful experience in baseball. It’s worth a listen ( the story starts at minute 15).  Taking some time to remember and ponder those meaningful experiences can help us see more of what matters to us and what’s really important in developing young people through athletics.


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