Coach Note

Jun 2, 2017 9:23 AM



How to Create a Winning Team Culture



Today's coach note was written by Lina Taylor. Former Collegiate and Olympic Volleyball player, Lina has never stepped away from a challenge and inspires others to face the impossible and experience unprecedented success. She works with athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators at all levels - from beginners to elite. Lina serves as a mentor to the United States Olympic Committee's Athlete Career and Eduction program and consults with corporations looking to increase productivity and improve team culture. Lina is also a speaker at conventions, universities, schools, and events.



Lina Taylor...You can learn more at and reach Lina at and follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram @LinaTaylorInt


"I took the lessons of winning, of total accountability, of willingness, of sacrifice, of hard work with me."  

~ Lina Taylor


Growing up an athlete in a communist country was defined by two things: relentless (almost ruthless) pursuit of results at any cost and a constant (nearly dreadful) lack of resources, such as basic equipment (think - shoes without holes or balls that are not splitting at the seams), heat in the practice facilities during the winter months, even electricity (oh yes, lights going out in the middle of practice but having to finish with a workout anyway). 


Here, in the United States, the problems facing youth administrators and coaches today can be quite debilitating as well - concussions, safety, lack of trainers, insufficient funding, high coach turnover, failing facilities, un-constructive parent involvement (to put it mildly). 


Yet, the inspired human spirit can find a way to persevere regardless. But how? How does one maintain a higher vision and create a winning culture despite difficult circumstances?


Take a look at my sport story growing up as an athlete in a communist country which illustrates some of the principles that lead to creating a winning team culture.


Having competed at the junior, collegiate, professional and Olympic levels, allowed me to develop specific skills that transcended languages, cultures, and continents. As a coach, and later as an administrator working with young athletes and parents, I started noticing patterns - some took teams in a desired direction, other patterns proved futile. I learned from different styles of leadership and added my own perspective to the teachings.


In addition to examining how one can be a great leader by being an effective mentor, here are the eight steps in creating a winning team culture:

(1) Identifying and defining your guiding values

(2) Creating a "new beginning" by clearing old habits and patterns. 

(3) Assigning roles and galvanizing your team around key role models from within the organization. 

(4) Engaging your team around a common goal

(5) Creating an environment of trust and accountability

(6) Focusing your team's efforts in a step-by-step system towards the desired goal. 

(7) Measuring and rewarding success along the way. 

(8) Implementing a self-correcting system to restore the desired course if deviations occur.


Putting it all into a system, that can be applied across a variety of sports and circumstances, is the basis for my upcoming session "The Keys to Becoming a Successful Mentor" at the Play Like A Champion Sports Leadership Conference in June on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. I hope you can join me!


"I came to understand the difference between a total authoritarian, soul-crushing style of leadership that 

got results and the wise, inspirational, mentor-like style of leadership that 

produced the same results but did not crush any souls in the process." ~ Lina Taylor








BYB - Be Your Best



Click this image of the BYB Saints Softball team of Rapid City, South Dakota to see their pre-game prayer.

Play Like a Champion Trainer Andy Shaw of the Rapid City Catholic School system formed a softball team comprised of 4th through 7th graders this spring that chose their name "The Saints" and chose to live by the theme "BYB" - "Be Your Best". Coach Shaw is working to build a winning team culture now as these girls move toward high school where Andy teaches and will continue to coach them. This culture begins on the team, extends to parents and leads to the athletes reaching out beyond their own team family to serve.


Reflect upon Coach Shaw's words to parents prior to the first game: "I can't wait for tonight! We will never yell at your daughter. We will get the most out of her (BYB) by teaching, re-teaching, building confidence and keeping a true love for the game. We will continue to improve each pitch on offense and defense. There will be times when it will all click together and we will compete with any team. There will be times that remind us that it's just a game and we will still compete.  Please remember our deal that you will not yell at the umpires or the players or the coaches from the stands. Never in the history of any sport has yelling negative things worked. What it really does is cause embarrassment for those who are playing the game. If you have any questions about my coaching beliefs, please arrange to meet with me at least 24 hours after a game. Please do not address me in anger or in front of a player. I am happy to meet with you and your daughter with a set time. Together we will make this a memorable season. Guaranteed. Thank you all. Time to Play Like a Champion."


During one game this spring, the Saints learned the opposing coach was recovering from a stroke. The Saints players made her a card and provided her with one of their commemorative BYB wristbands. The opposing coach was touched, "I beamed when I read your well wishes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have a great group of girls. Good luck to you along the way."


Coaches, consider what you do to build a winning culture: 

  • Does your team live by a motto such as "BYB"?
  • How do you communicate with your team parents? 
  • How does your team reach out to others in service and love? 


"May sports be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and contribute to peace in the world."

~ Pope Francis 



Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series / PO Box 72 / Notre Dame IN 46556 /





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