This article first appeared on The Coaches Network. (Reposted with Permission)
Core values are the foundation of what you do and why you do it. They are anchoring principles that ground you to what’s really important and guide you toward success. They are what you stand for no matter what your circumstances may be or what your win/loss record is. Core values serve as a guide because they are non-negotiable. They serve as the essence of what your program stands for and they are expected to be shared by everyone. Core values are central to your program and the decisions leaders make should revolve around them.
Every good coach and leader understands the importance of core values as a guide through the ups and downs of sport, and more importantly, developing character in young men and women. Yet, despite the critical importance of core values, many athletic programs have core values that are not clearly defined, left unstated, too flexible, and in some cases, there are no core values at all. Sadly, too many athletic programs have core values that are only an afterthought. They are not discussed and implemented, and coaches falsely assume their athletes will just pick up on these values and apply them. Without a clearly defined set of core values, many teams struggle to handle the difficulties of sport because their values change based on what’s convenient in the moment rather than a stable bedrock of guiding principles. As a result, leadership is often inconsistent, there is little accountability between teammates, and the potential to build character through sport is lost.
As a coach and leader, developing and communicating core values begins and ends with you. However, because core values are central to team success and character development, it is vital to involve your team in determining them, making them visible, emphasizing them, and using them as a guide for your program’s daily decisions and actions.
To begin defining your program’s core values, consider the following categories of core values. Have a meeting with your team and staff. Ask yourself and your team: What do we value about …
Being People of Strong Character
Effort and Commitment
Having a Positive and Productive Attitude
Being a Good Teammate
As you discuss and work through defining your core values, give your team a chance to share or write down their responses to the previous question(s) and write them out on a white board, chalk board, or poster board. Once the responses are written down, place them into three categories:
Stay: The majority of the group agrees the value is important and will be a core value.
Example: “RESPONSIBILITY: We will be responsible for our actions. No excuses!”
Combine: Two or more values that are similar can be merged into one, overarching value.
Example: Poise and maturity can be combined into “COMPOSURE: We will control our emotions and decisions on and off the field.”
Cut: The majority of the team agrees that the idea does not have enough relevance or support to be a core value.
Once your team has developed five to 10 core values it’s time to put them into action. Here are a few ways to make your team’s core values part of its daily commitment to progress and success.
1. Post your core values in your locker room.
Create a constant reminder of your core values by posting them in the locker room, weight room, and your coaches’ offices. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, only consistently visible.
2. Have every member of your team and staff memorize your core values.
To help embed core values, have your team members and staff memorize the core values. Be sure everyone in the program can recite the core values at a moment’s notice.
3. Emphasize one of your core values with each week.
Make a full week all about one of your core values. Before the first practice of the week, discuss the core value that will be emphasized that week and why it’s important. After each practice that week, recognize those that committed to and best exhibited that core value.
4. Recognize your core values when you see them on and off the field.
Call out your team members and staff when they exemplify the team’s core values. Catch them “doing good” and use them as an example for the entire team. Don’t be afraid to stop practice for a minute to point out how hard someone is working or when someone is being a great teammate.
5. Incorporate your core values in your highlight videos.
Be sure to include core values in your highlight and video sessions. This is a great way to show what your core values look like and to recognize those committed to them. It’s also a great way to show why core values are important even if the result of a play or a game isn’t what you want. These highlights are about doing it right.
It will be easy to stick to your core values when everything is going well. It’s easy to preach core values when your team is winning, everyone is healthy, and team chemistry is good. Sticking to core values becomes more difficult when you’re on a losing streak, you’re faced with setbacks, and your athletes may not be doing the right things on and off the field. As previously mentioned, core values begin and end with you. When you bend and break your core values, you run the risk of losing respect and trust with your team and you send the message that short-cuts are okay. Stick to your core values. They are an invaluable resource to build more mentally tough athletes and develop character in those around you.
Raymond Prior is one of the country’s top peak performance professionals, and has nearly a decade of experience educating athletes and coaches about building mental toughness. Prior works with athletes, teams, and coaches at professional, Olympic, NCAA, amateur, and youth sport levels. His clients include professional athletes, Olympic Gold Medalists, individual and team National Champions, National Coach of the Year Award winners, individual and team Conference Champions, and more than 100 NCAA All-Americans in a variety of sports. For more information on Raymond’s consulting, visit www.rfpsport.com, or contact him by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (505-235-4486).