Today is the official start of practice and everyone is excited. They say championships are made in the off season. That may be true in most cases. But there is a word that is being used more and more these days…CULTURE. It’s this word the may determine that fate of not just teams but programs as well. More and more, coaches, parents and players 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 today every high school coach in New Jersey will try and 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 coaches, parents 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 standard 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. Everyone knows that at RBC the name on the front is bigger and more important than the 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 has been passed along. It is a drama free zone always. 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 competition.


There are certainly Cultures where kids know if they attend a school 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. It’s a risk a kid takes 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 succeeding at the same time.

Coach John Turhan has created a Culture of OVER ACHIEVEMENT

There are also Cultures of over achieving. 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 to compete. RBR is the classic example of an over achieving 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 two 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.

Dave Callahan has created a family Culture at RFH

Culture is not just on the court, its off the court as well. I have seen few Cultures like RFH for example. Coach Callahan has created a culture of family. The players, parents and coaches truly enjoy each other and root for each other. RFH is a Culture that is hard to create and still be competitive. Competition in most cases create jealousy and anger. But programs like RFH have found a balance of playing for championships and having fun at the same time. 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 to eat 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. 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 winning is all that matters…accountability is nowhere to be found.

In the end the Culture building starts today for everyone. Trying to create that perfect culture in some cases takes years. It’s a culture where relationships matter not just today but in the future. 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. Because often times perception is reality, meaning no matter how hard you try, others believe you are something you are not. This is when your teams true Culture comes though. Today is the day it begins for all and here is a little secret. You don’t know your real team Culture until they have sweated, worked hard, suffered injuries, lost heart breaking games and cried together!

Related Post