10 Things Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Do in Championship Cultures

by Jeff Janssen, Janssen Sports Leadership Center

In Championship Cultures, teammates hold themselves and each other accountable for championship attitudes and actions. They don’t just preach responsibility, accountability, ownership, and teamwork - they ACT ON IT - each and every day. There is little tolerance for things that clearly get in the way of winning and representing the program in a first-class manner.

This Culture of Accountability comes from getting everyone on the team to buy in to and act on a set of winning standards that place a premium on both results and relationships. Ideally, it is up to everyone to establish, embody, endorse, and enforce your team’s Championship Culture - but realistically, most of it depends on the captains and coaches modeling and maintaining the standards.

Unfortunately, if left unchecked, there are several negative attitudes and actions that can get in the way of winning. Invest the time with your team to identify these harmful factors on the front end. Then make a pact with your athletes and staff that they will not be tolerated in your program. If you can get your team leaders to establish and enforce this kind of Championship Culture, you set yourself up for sustainable, high-level success on and off the field/court.

Being privileged to see this Culture of Accountability take hold in over 25 NCAA National Championship teams, here are the 10 Things Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Do in Championship Cultures.

1. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Cut Corners

Championship Cultures expect and demand everyone’s best effort on a consistent basis. They know if they let teammates go half speed in practices, skip reps in the weight room, miss conditioning times, blow off classes, or take plays off, they are actually shortchanging themselves and significantly hurting the entire team’s chances of success. Therefore, they insist upon teammates consistently bringing their best effort and training at least at the Compliant if not Committed or Compelled levels on the Commitment Continuum.

2. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Whine or Complain

Championship Cultures are fueled by and feed off positive energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. They look forward to challenges, enjoy the chance to compete, and value the time they get to spend with each other. Thus, they don’t appreciate nor tolerate teammates who continually have negative attitudes, complain about trivial issues, and whine about practices and playing time. Teammates with bad attitudes suck the life out of the team and must be encouraged to get over it quickly - or find another team.

3. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Make Excuses

Championship Cultures neither offer nor accept excuses for problems or poor performances. They hold each teammate accountable to do their job and perform at or above the necessary standard. They adopt a “No Excuses” mindset.

In Championship Cultures, it’s really not okay when a teammate:
- doesn’t know the plays or misses a sign because of poor focus
- overslept and was late to a workout
- wasn’t mentally prepared to compete
- can’t maintain their poise and composure when they get bad calls from officials
- blames their lackluster performance on the adverse weather/field/court conditions.

Athletes in Championship Cultures expect each other to own their performances and successfully deal with adversity, adjust to it, and overcome it. They only accept responsibility - not excuses.

4. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Act Selfishly

Championship Cultures insist the TEAM’s success comes first. They don’t take kindly to teammates who look out only for themselves or who prioritize and promote their individual success above the team’s success and well-being. In Championship Cultures, these selfish teammates are quickly confronted and corrected - or weeded out if they aren’t committed to being a great teammate. Championship Cultures value and honor people who selflessly sacrifice for the good of the team. They appreciate everyone’s contributions and generously share and deflect the credit for success to their teammates - rather than trying to hoard it for themselves. They continually emphasize WE over me.

5. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Disrespect Each Other

Championship Cultures treat each other with consideration and respect. They abide by the Golden Rule - doing unto teammates as they would want done to them. Obviously, teammates won’t always agree with each other but that does not give them any reason or right to belittle, gossip about, or demean them. Championship Cultures don’t tolerate teammates who talk negatively about or disrespect each other. They constructively deal with the natural and inevitable conflicts between teammates with honesty, compassion, and respect.

6. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Divide or Destroy the Team

Championship Cultures do not survive long if they tolerate teammates who divide or destroy the team from within. They live by the saying, “It is better to have 1,000 enemies outside the tent than one inside the tent.” Destructive teammates who try to divide the team by creating corrosive cliques or attacking the coaches are culture killers. Their divisive behavior must be quickly called out and crushed. Conversely, Championship Cultures consciously look to build and strengthen relationships and bonds between teammates and with the coaching staff. They actively promote a sense of team chemistry, inclusiveness, and unity.

7. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Trash the Coaches

Championship Cultures don’t allow teammates to trash the coaches. Sure, there are numerous times when athletes disagree with their coaches on the lineup, playing time, roles, training regimens, game plans, etc. This is normal and natural. However, there is a big difference between disagreeing with the coaches and denigrating the coaches. It is okay not to agree with all the coaches’ decisions, but to totally bash and blame them for all that is wrong in the program is not tolerated within Championship Cultures. Instead, athletes and coaches forge a positive and productive partnership. They realize they are all in this together and must have each others’ backs.

8. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Embarrass the Program

Championship Cultures take immense pride in the program and whom they represent. They are proud of what they have built because of all the blood, sweat, and tears shed by them - and those who went before them. They take pride in wearing the jersey and all it represents. They have high standards and insist upon representing the program with class. Therefore, they have little tolerance for those who act like a fool and embarrass the program by irresponsible and immature behavior. These antics reflect negatively on the entire team. Championship Cultures deal quickly and firmly with those who dare to bring dishonor to the team.

9. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Give Up or Give In

Championship Cultures don’t allow their teammates to give up or give in when the going gets tough or the outlook seems bleak. The unmistakable standard is to keep fighting, persisting, and competing until the very end. In a Championship Culture, teammates expect and require each other to finish drills, dive for loose balls, play through the whistle, push through fatigue and frustration, compete relentlessly until the game is over, and invest fully through the last competition of the season. Championship Cultures may lose games, but they will never lose their pride.

10. Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Down

Ultimately, teammates in Championship Cultures refuse to let each other down. There is such a respect and reverence for fellow teammates that they play for each other, not just for themselves. There is a common understanding and bond that teammates will battle tirelessly out of respect for the brother/sisterhood that has developed. While losses hurt tremendously, the even greater pain is in the thought of letting your teammates down. In Championship Cultures, teammates don’t just play with each other, they play FOR each other.

Click Here to Download a Sheet of the 10 Things Teammates Don't Let Teammates Do in Championship Cultures to share with your team.

Now that you have discovered each of the 10 Things Teammates Don’t Let Teammates Do in Championship Cultures, go back and rate how well your team lives by each of the standards as well as what you can do to improve in each area. Championship Culture building is an ongoing process that must be built and sustained throughout the course of the ups and downs of every season. Work with your staff and team leaders to create and cultivate the kind of Championship Culture you need to succeed.

How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Program

For more info on how to create a Championship Culture where teammates hold each other accountable in your program, check out our How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture book for coaches and the new companion workbook for captains called The Team Captain's Culture Manual.

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