wiser sports leadership blog

DeAngelo Wiser

My wife and I were in Indianapolis recently and coincidentally there were several AAU Men’s basketball teams in our hotel. These were mainly 16, 17, and 18 year old young men, and very respectful.

On the morning of our departure, a few members of one team were waiting for an elevator to take them to the lobby. As the others gradually arrived, I noticed the coach approaching. When the elevator arrived, they followed the coach and piled in, leaving no room for anyone else, and headed down, leaving my wife and me standing there.

While it wasn’t a big inconvenience for us, I couldn’t help but think about the missed opportunity for a teachable moment by the coach. What if he had looked up and said, “Hold on guys. Sir, you and your wife take that one. We’ll get the next one.”
For me, the shaping of a team’s culture is formed during opportunities like this in which those who don’t know your team come away with a “wow” impression. While perception may not be important to you as a coach, the lessons you teach your team everyday should be.

During our season when our team stopped at Fast Food Restaurants, I always did my best to make sure our team let others go first before we ordered. It can be very crowded with 25 players at the counter. After a few times, it was so rewarding seeing them move out of the way or let someone else go in front, without any words from me.

The culture of your team is always on display, whether in public, practice or a game. That culture takes time to build, but the results will last a lifetime.


As defined by Merriam-Webster:
The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.

What foundational base do you use to build your team culture? What components are critical? What preferences from your own values and character do you use? What traits in your personality do you bring in? Leave out? Do you want your team to be a clone of you? What are the advantages? Disadvantages? Can you shape your team culture without input and assistance from your players? Why is it important to include them? After all, the current group of freshmen will be gone in four years and the others will have graduated before that.

Shaping and forming a team and program is always something that brings great satisfaction. It doesn’t happen overnight, and always has its challenges.

What’s do we need to consider when creating and shaping the culture of our team?

INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITIES – Every player is unique, so don’t stifle their creativity with rules and regulations that mean very little.

INCLUDE THE TEAM/EMPOWERMENT – Have a meeting as soon as possible to establish expectations with your players. If there are some guidelines that you must have, let them know, but make sure they’re allowed to decide/discuss on others with you.

BE TOTALLY LIKE YOU – No, none of us is perfect. Varying opinions and ideas are what make a team great. Give your players space to comfortably be themselves using their attributes to succeed on their own.

WHAT’S BEST FOR THE TEAM– This should always be a consideration as we create any expectation.

VALUES – Just because we’re a coach, it doesn’t mean we can force our values on our players. Consider other input and ideas when appropriate.

TOLERATED/NOT TOLERATED – There may be times when you have to bend a little when generating an expectation. Consider how important it is or is not. Those behaviors that will not be tolerated are usually pretty clear. The challenge is not to have so many rules that your team can’t be themselves.

VISION – What do you want your team to look like? What do you want your team to act like? Once you have that vision it’s pretty easy to set your goals. Never lose the vision.

TEAM GOALS – Work with your team and decide where you want to go and how you plan to get there.

ENVIRONMENT– “You get what you expect.” If your vision is to become a reality, you’ll have to challenge your players every day. It may be tough but never waver. Just encourage them every chance you get.

ACCOUNTABILITY – Step up and let the team know you’ll take care of this area with respect to each incident regardless of which player is involved.

LEADERS – While the obvious answer may be you, select leaders from your team with your players.

EVERY MOMENT – Every situation is a teachable moment for you as a coach. Be keenly aware of every opportunity to mold and shape your players.

It’s not only shaping the culture of your team, it’s shaping the culture of your program. To do it, you have to sell everyone involved on your vision and expectations for the program. Parents, Administrators and Players need to be shown the benefits and rewards of where you want the program to go. Once you have everyone on board, the challenge will become a reality.

One of the biggest highlights for our team was the year we won the “Officials’ Sportsmanship Team of the Year Award.” This was annually given to the team that exemplified the best sportsmanship in our game. In 20 years of coaching, our team only had one red card incident. I made sure our team understood what we expected with respect to how they conducted themselves on and off the field. And, as you can tell, for the vast majority of the time, they conducted themselves accordingly.

Having command of your team may or may not mean you have the respect of your players. When you witness them reminding each other of established team values you’ve taken the first step toward shaping a positive culture with your team. That will always be a reflection of what you expect, and ultimately what you tolerate.

Remember, it’s on display every day.
“Hold on guys. Sir you and your wife take that one, we’ll wait on the next one.”

I wish you and your team the best.