Inside Pitch Magazine, September/October 2020

Quick Pitch: Team Culture

A Tool You Cannot Compare

By Justin Brown
Justin BrownIt takes a disciplined coaching mind to refrain from comparison. Some elements of comparison of teams is assumed and necessary. Coaches are keenly aware of who’s waiting in the opposing bullpen, who’s arriving on campus in the fall in the next wave of commitments for the conference rival.

A coaching staff will be on the job hunt eventually, if they are not able to scout and prepare for what the opposition has. All coaches know scouting and preparation are critical. Coaches must always be aware of the tools and talent of the opposition. But there is one element to a championship team that you can’t compare. One element that is a waste of precious time and energy to focus on in someone else’s dugout instead of your own.

The element is the creation of a high performing team culture.

Ask any championship coach the key elements to their teams’ success and you won’t have to wait long to hear them emphasize the power of their team culture to win games and find competitive success. They will speak of talented players, maybe a story or two of a complete game shutout on the mound. But they will without question mention their team culture.

We can look in the other dugout and recognize the other team may have more talented players. We can compare and see they may have a deeper bullpen. We can compare and recognize they may have a more potent middle of the order. But we cannot compare culture. It would be futile for a coach to compare the culture in the other dugout with the culture in their own dugout.

Three reasons why a coach should refrain from comparing culture:

1) Your Team Culture is Built Inside-Out

Culture is never built with an outside-in perspective. A high performing culture is always built from the inside out. Through carefully crafted standards and meticulously selecting individuals. A team can be inspired by elements they recognize in another team. The standards and behaviors. The leadership on display. But culture is cultivated with the personnel you have – in the moment. Like a loving family, culture is procured in the privacy of the home – behind closed doors. In the locker room, culture is a shared belief, passed organically, person to person. Outside comparison just complicates the process. Other teams do not have who you have. A high performing culture is concerned with only those who are within the boundaries.

2) Your Team Culture Must Honor the Process
In the case of cultivating and creating a high performing culture, it takes time. Similar to the agriculture world it takes careful tending to the process. If Coach A is in year three of a program rebuild and constantly comparing the culture of their team with Coach B who has been at the program for twenty-five years, all that will abound is frustration and discouragement. For no reason at all. If the process is correct, the product will eventually come. It’s a bit irrelevant how much further another team is on the journey. There is no shortcut in the process. The process cannot be outsourced or bought. Each step on the journey must be completed with passion and enthusiasm. Honor the process and start small.

3) Your Team Culture Is Unique to Your Team
A team culture is always unique to the personalities and backgrounds of the members of the team. Your opponent may have a similar looking shortstop with an open stance at the plate. But they don’t have a player with the same experiences, maturity (or lack thereof), family background and personality traits. A coach must focus on leading the players they have. Your team culture is made up of who you have. The fundamentals of an elite culture will exist in two rival schools, but the players change, the resources change, the personalities change, the families change, the backgrounds and experiences change. It’s unique to who you have, and your culture is unique to your club.

There is little satisfaction in peeking over to the other dugout and wishing you could be leading the other club. The real satisfaction for a leader and coach is to commit to developing the culture in your own dugout and clubhouse. The satisfaction of a high performing team reaping the benefits of a carefully crafted culture is why we coach. It is worth the effort of staying away from comparing another team’s culture.

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