HERE IN Trinidad and Tobago the word, “culture,” is often synonymous with topics such as carnival, food, music, population, and religion.
We learn, from as early as primary school age, that our Trinbagonian culture is a result of our rich historical past and the ethnically diverse post-colonial settlers. Indeed our “culture,” is taught throughout most of our primary and secondary schooling, through social studies and history classes, school outings, carnival parades and celebrations of the various religious and cultural holidays. I’m sure many of us can remember lighting diyas, making Christmas cards or sharing an Eid Mubarak greeting with our classmates at the respective times of the year.
Similarly, when we walk into most businesses or member organisations we often find the vision and mission statements posted clearly for anyone who enters the building to see. These statements identify the organisation’s culture: who they are, the morals and values they stand by, what they do and how they hope to achieve such. These statements are often not just for the perusal of visitors but will be shared among the very staff of the organisation: a belief system and a code of operation. They will be embedded in the day to day activity in the hopes of creating…an organisational culture.
All of this would suggest, therefore, that culture is a fairly important part of who we are as a society. It is often used as one of the ways that we define who we are.
Turning now to my area of speciality, sport psychology, this then begs a few questions: What is our sport and performance culture here in Trinidad and Tobago? Who or what creates it? And how much does it influence athletic performance? This discussion can certainly turn from a simple newspaper article to a 400,000-word thesis, but I’ll try to keep it succinct…
Sport culture is simply the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices of a particular group or team. It’s what we do and how we do it. We can think of sport culture on a macro-scale: that culture created from the larger governing organisations, or on a micro-scale: that created by a single head coach within a particular team. Realistically, both tend to feed into the other, the organisations help form the coaching culture and the coaching culture help form the organisational culture.
So, what does this have to do with athletes and performance? In short…everything. The environment coaches create for their athletes, the values, and attitudes they teach and practice through their coaching, and the goals they set for themselves and ultimately their athletes, define performance outcomes.
One of the foundational pillars to developing a successful team culture is to begin by developing your personal coaching philosophy. This is the very core of your team culture and will be the fuel that sustains it. At the end of the day coaches are at the very heart of athlete development or athlete detriment, depending on the environment they create and the culture they sustain. Here are a few questions you might consider when developing your coaching philosophy:
1) Why do I coach/want to become a coach?
2) Am I excellence-centered or winning-centered?
3) Am I athlete-centered or coach-centered in my approach?
4) What are my top 5 core values/beliefs as a coach?
5) What behaviours do I practice regularly that demonstrate these to my athletes?
6) Am I open and willing to learn the values/beliefs that are important to my athletes?
7) What are some of my strengths and weaknesses as a coach and am I open to feedback? Feel free to submit any questions you might have to email@example.com.