Great teams exist as one unit. They trust each other, they support each other, and they push each other. When divisions form inside a team, those fractures harm the overall culture. Players who choose an environment of cliques and exclusivity over camaraderie and solidarity make it that much more difficult to win.
Julie Foudy knows what it takes to build a championship culture. The former midfielder starred for the United States women’s national soccer team for nearly two decades, serving as a co-captain from 1991 to 2000 then as the team’s lone captain from 2000 to 2004. She helped lead the red, white and blue to two FIFA Women’s World Cup championships plus an Olympic gold medal. With 274 career caps to her name (the fourth-most in team history), Foudy saw many teammates come and go. A big part of the USWNT’s continued success during that era was that everyone, from the superstar forward to the greenest newbie, was held to the same standard.
In the above video from the Positive Coaching Alliance, Foudy says, “One of the things I think about all the time with our national team in my almost decades of playing with them and being a captain or co-captain for most of the time is, why were we so successful? And how did we create a team culture that was positive?
“And the first thing we would do is when a younger player would come to the team, or a new team member, we would embrace them and say welcome to the family. It wasn’t this team initiation of well, you’re the rookie so you’re going to carry the water and carry all the balls and you’re going to do this. It was Carla Overbeck, the team captain, or myself, grabbing a bag of balls and saying, ‘hey, this is something we’re all in together as a family. And we’re not gonna haze you. We’re gonna welcome you. It’s gonna be competitive and we’re gonna kick you on the field a little bit. But welcome to the family and we’re so glad you’re here.’ And I think that’s important because you’re setting the culture of what that group does. And there’s not this hierarchy of we’re the senior leaders on this team, and you’re going to do all the grunt work, and you’re going to have to do all the stuff that we don’t want to do. It was the culture of we are in this together and this is what we value as a group. You, as a new member, are just as important as one of the captains or a superstar on the team that’s scoring all the goals. And you (as players) have the ability, don’t forget, to create that culture. What is it that you want a new team member to know when she steps on the field or he steps on the field with you?”
Carrying a bag of balls off the field after practice might seem like a small thing, but how you do the small things is how you do everything. The USWNT during Foudy’s playing days consistently valued the team above the individual and held all players to the same standard of excellence. The result was one of the most dominant periods in international soccer history.
To find this full resource and over 2,000 others from Positive Coaching Alliance, head over to pcadevzone.org.
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