Practices are heating up as everyone is excited to get to next weeks scrimmages. I told you on Monday, they say championships are made in the off season. But there is a word that is being used more and more these days…CULTURE. It’s this word the may determine the fate of not just teams but programs as well. More and more, coaches, parents and players these days are more concerned with the CULTURE of their team. 

Today many coaches have figured out that culture is too important to ignore these days and every high school coach in New Jersey will be trying to get their culture right. Culture is not easy to develop because so many factors go into creating that winning culture these days. Many schools have a culture that is undeniable. Some are great and some are not so great.

I believe each schools’ Culture is created by the coaches, parents and schools administrations.  RBC for example has created a culture unlike any school maybe in the state. Everyone knows RBC is not a place for every kid. It’s a place where standards have been set long before a player gets to the school. They know what to expect. There are no surprises at RBC. If a kid wants to be a superstar and hog the spotlight, RBC is not the place. You’ve heard this a million times before, at RBC the name on the front is bigger and more important than any name on the back. The players who attend RBC know there will be no point padding, running up scores or parents out of control. They know that Joe Montano is the boss of bosses. RBC has a culture that represents class. It’s a culture that is passed along, year after year. It’s a place where no one player is bigger than the program. This type of Culture goes beyond wins and losses. This Culture is that elite balance between life lessons and championships. One cannot exist without the other

Not every Culture is the same. There are programs where kids go on vacation or miss practices during the season. These programs are not bad programs. They are just places where the administration and coaching staff believe sports is not the be all do all. These cultures allow a kid to play basketball and still have a social life during the season. These programs have coaches who have come to except this way of life and players who understand it as well. It’s a culture of even headed people, who don’t need championships to validate them. It only becomes a problem when people expect more and want more. But in these Culture’s people are not looking for greatness on the court. They want happiness in most cases off the floor. It works for some but not for all. This culture is often not a merit based system. It’s a system designed for kids to play and have a great experience regardless of the outcome of the competition.

There are certainly Cultures where kids know if they attend certain schools it will be hard work from day one. The culture at SJV for example, everyone knows is competitive. It’s a place where each kid knows nothing will be given and everything will be earned. DAWN KARPELL AND SJV have created a culture of championships. It’s not a place for kids who are not competitive and not willing to go beyond the call of duty in the off season. The culture is clear to all who attend the school. These type cultures are for the Alpha Female who is willing to give 100% to reach a gold. These cultures do not tolerate excuses or short cuts. The kids who attend schools like SJV know the sacrifices run deep and there are no promises waiting at the end of the rainbow. It’s a risk a kid must be willing to take when running with the big dogs. But of all the cultures, this one can be the most satisfying. Doing something others were afraid to try and then succeeding at the same time… WELL THATS PRICELESS

There are also Cultures of overachieving. These are the programs where everyone jumps in with both feet, meaning the parents and players. These are the cultures where kids have accepted they are not as talented. But refuse to let that be an excuse not to compete for chips. RBR is the classic example of an overachieving program. John Turhan has convinced his kids that with teamwork and focus they can beat anyone. His players believe him. It’s why the entire Culture at RBR has been flipped in just 4 years. But like wise, there are Cultures with lots of talent that under achieve because the culture is one of ego’s and questionable work ethics.

Culture is not just on the court, its off the court as well. I have seen few Cultures like Jackson Memorial for example. Coach Rachel Goodale has created a culture of family. The players, parents and coaches truly enjoy each other and root for each other. Jax is a Culture that is hard to create because it’s authentic . Competition in most cases create jealousy and anger. But programs like Jax Mem have found a balance of playing for championships at times and having fun when the chips are not in the cards. These type culture’s are the hardest to build. There has to be a real history of trust. There must be a real understanding and trust that everyone will get into the spotlight at some point. This culture screams support system to kids and parents.

There are some toxic Cultures as well. These are the culture’s everyone is ducking these days. It’s the Culture that gets off track and in many cases impossible to fix. This culture runs deep into the administration. It’s the place where the parents are out of control. The players are disrespectful and the coaches are lost for words. These are the Cultures, parents fear and only hope their child doesn’t walk into unexpectedly. These cultures are places where the administration is just trying to keep the peace. These cultures kill the joy regardless of the success of the team. These are the programs that over sell, over promise and under deliver.This is a culture rooted in distrust, gossip , disrespect and selfness. It’s a culture built on fear and these programs never reach their full potential. These are the cultures where heads are turned and accountability is nowhere to be found.

Then there are Cultures being built from the ground up. Places like Trinity Hall and Donovan Catholic. Places that are creating an entirely new way of life. Places that are starting a new legacy. Trying to create that perfect culture in some cases takes years. It’s a culture where new relationships get starting. These are Cultures the are planting the seeds that matter not just for today but for the future as well. These are the Cultures where coaches hope that everyone ,meaning players, support staff and parents are invested in each other, not just themselves.

Trying to change a team Culture is even tougher. Rumson’s Dave Cahalan has been trying to do that for 5 years now. Because often times perception is reality, meaning no matter how hard you try, others believe you are something you are not. Some Cultures sometimes have to go though a makeover and people sometimes don’t want to acknowledge it. They rather live in the past and not the now. This is when your teams true Culture comes though. This is when a coach knows if his or her Culture is holding. Because strong Cultures grow and evolve. That’s what has taken place at RFH.

There are also Cultures built on compassion and Nurturing. These are the Cultures that are always the best. These are Cultures where there are no short cuts and kids come first. There are often programs that needed to be fixed in order to find that balance of greatness on and off the court. Where a teaching and learning environment is created. Where little girls become women. Where winning doesn’t trump right from wrong. A place where kids can feel good about themselves. So that when you do win it feels so much better. Mary Beth Chambers is building such a Culture at St. Rose. She is showing everyone you don’t have to be ugly and mean spirited to be great and win chips. Where self esteem and confidence building rules the day. Mary Beth Chambers is proving a healthy culture is a fun Culture.

Today is another day for coaches, players and teams to Solidify the Culture they hope to have. Nobody truly knows their real team Culture until they have sweated, worked hard, suffered injuries, lost heart breaking games and cried together! BECAUSE ONLY THEN DOES YOUR CULTURE TRULY REVEAL ITSELF💪🏀

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