Creating a Culture

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Diary of a Startup, Kid Stuff | 0 comments

Just an illustration of creating a culture, and how it all comes from the top down.

Somehow I ended up coaching The Barbarian’s soccer team. I played soccer for many, many years, but The Barbarian had not played before. He had played football in two different leagues, and we much preferred one league over the other because one league emphasized sportsmanship and having fun, while the other did not. The football league that did not emphasize sportsmanship and fun ended up being a league where people wanted to win above all else. This is not great when you’re a little kid.

I played AYSO when I was little and so I had naively believed that all non-club (read: you don’t have to try out) soccer leagues would be like AYSO, where “everyone plays” and it’s a positive environment that emphasized fun and sportsmanship.

Since I’m coaching, this is what I emphasized with The Barbarian’s team, but I guess the other coaches and parents didn’t get that message because apparently it’s really all about winning at any cost.

Although I was always one of the best players in my age group, The Barbarian hasn’t yet shown any inheritance of my athletic talents. The Barbarian mostly spends his in-game time daydreaming near the goal. After the team lost a game by like 20 points, he decided that eventually the ball would make its way over to the goal, and he would be there to defend it. His long-term strategy of patience and physical existence has paid off big time. Meaning we have only been losing by like 7 points instead of 20. I’ve told him to move up and away from the goal sometimes, but apparently it’s a pretty good place for spinning in circles, and just all around a great place to be. Especially after he broke a tooth during a game and became afraid of the ball.

So you can see, he’s not exactly a ringer. I have to take genetic credit for his daydreaming, spinning, patient existence, since I did the same thing for the first two years that I played soccer. I grew out of it, so we’ll see what The Barbarian does in the next year or so. He believes he’s great, and he’s having fun, and that’s the point for us. He knows he’s not the best player, but he sees himself as part of the team and he likes that. When he doesn’t want to play any more, then he doesn’t have to play.

Finally, our team won a game by one point. It was a hard won victory. Technically, we “don’t keep score” but the kids are 7 years old, not 2, so they can count and they certainly do keep score all by themselves.

And a parent on another team complained to the commissioner about my daydreaming Barbarian “guarding” the goal.

This, when the kid is clearly afraid of the ball, can barely kick it, and half the time when the other team took a shot on goal, he was happily looking entirely the other way. I think he only purposely got in front of the ball one time during the whole game. Any other time he connected with the ball was clearly involuntary pure coincidence.

This. After I have spent every other game watching the other coaches say negative things to the players, having parents yell negative things from the sidelines, dealing with multiple missing players who are missing the soccer games/practice because their parents also signed them up to play baseball and the games are at the same time,  watched coaches allow their players to say “bad game” instead of “good game,” watched coaches and refs allow the little hooligans to blatantly push and shove each other to the point where I really worried about the safety of some of the little guys (and my little guys sobbed at the injustice of it all), watched as coaches encouraged players to run up the score (and my little guys took it like men), favor certain players instead of rotating subs fairly, etc. I refereed soccer games when I was young, so I understand this stuff from a ref’s perspective, too. This stuff is just not ok. If I wanted this kind of crap I’d have signed him up for Little League.

So  after all this…really? A daydreaming 7 year old is what merits a lengthy email from the commissioner?

Oh no they di-int.

The sportsmanship. It lacks.

I told the league exactly what I’ve seen going on, exactly why my kids won’t play in a league that doesn’t emphasize sportsmanship, and exactly what other leagues are doing right to create a league culture that emphasizes sportsmanship.

The thing is, if you look at how culture is created, it always comes from the top down. Lead by example, have a defined emphasis (like AYSO’s six philosophies), and repeat and reiterate the core of the culture over and over again.




Dropped my laptop. Boo.
Finish What You Started vs. Multitasking

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