Reflective Practice for Culture Creation: What, So What, Now What?

If you’ve been itching for a blog post in the last two months, Both-And Coaching is back to scratch it! Apologies for the mini hiatus. I started coaching with a team this spring and that commitment has taken a big bite out of blog writing time. It’s energizing to be on the pitch again working with another group of young athletes. Somehow though, during my transition to a new program, I forgot how swiftly training and games replace free evenings and weekends. Even so, I’ve missed the simultaneous all-consuming and invigorating nature of coaching—a glorious paradox of the practice.

Let’s get back on track: the last post in March regarded a darker side of sport. I offered my take on the Larry Nassar case. In that entry I examined the jarring, expansive scope of Nassar’s sexual abuse against young women and girls (and one young man) from individual, institutional, and social perspectives. These different levels of analyses helped us make sense of and learn from the tragedy for our own coaching. Situating his egregious crimes within institutional and broader social contexts elucidated how culture enabled Nassar—not just institutional culture, but that of our social world.

The next topic of discussion builds off this central theme in two upcoming entries in which I explore culture creation within sport programs (or teams). The first post addresses the significant role that coaches have as culture creators, and focuses on how coaches can improve their coaching and sport context through reflection, or reflective practice. Culture creation does not just fall on coaches. The subsequent post will unpack the instrumental influence that players have in creating and reinforcing culture. This entry will feature player-driven practices that coaches can integrate into their coaching to co-create culture with athletes. Co-creating culture requires that coaches shift responsibility to players to promote agency and buy-in throughout the culture-building process.


Ahead of the first post, I’d like to invite coaches, players, and other adult leaders in sport to engage in a quick reflective practice. Consider the following questions:

What makes an effective program (or team) culture?

If you are a coach, what makes an effective coach?

After you have given yourself time and space to think, your next task is to structure your brainstorm: Choose 3 values that you believe embody an effective program/team culture, or coaching. (If you need some inspiration, check out these articles[1] to get some ideas flowing!)  Rank values in the order you prioritize them. Then, identify a specific behavior that corresponds to each value. Remember that we can reinforce values with various actions, such as through communication, body language, and interactions. In other words, what does a given value look like?

How do you bring each value to life in your practice?

If you are a coach, what do you do to convey your values to players?

Norway Ski Team

Feel free to post your values and corresponding actions as a comment on the pageShare your knowledge with our community of practice!

Culture creation requires deliberate thought and action. Coaches need to move beyond sport-specific evaluation of technique and tactics. Next time we will delve into the topic more deeply to consider the “what” of reflective practice, “so what”—why reflection matters for culture creation— and “now what” —what coaches can do to cultivate a coherent, co-creative culture that promotes holistic athlete development.

[1] USWNT ’99ers and Norway Ski Team

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