Seven Vital Beliefs for Creating a Winning Culture
By Dave Cooper

Since I work with players, coaches and teams from peewee to pro, I’m always looking for ways to help them understand leadership and team- building skills so they will benefit from them on and off the playing field.

Over the years, I’ve identified the key components of a supportive culture that will help hockey players achieve both their team and personal goals.

We need to build learning environments that give teams and individuals the best chance to be successful. If you think any of these ideas would help your team, please borrow them

Here are my seven vital beliefs for creating a winning team culture:

1. It’s got to be personal

Coaches must believe that they will become a better leader as a result of the team achieving a winning culture. This creates an authentic energy on the part of the players to want to jump on-board and be part of something special.

2. Outcome clarity

The coach communicates clearly what it will take to achieve a winning culture and acknowledges that failure is possible. The players understand that if they "bring it" on a regular basis, they will have done all they can do and will feel a sense of pride regardless of the outcome.

3. Play to team strengths

The coach spreads the responsibility for leadership among all players by developing their leadership capabilities. The coach identifies each player’s role on the team by assessing his or her physical skill set and attitudinal strengths.

4. Fail forward

The coach communicates what a good, or advancing, mistake looks like. A good mistake is a mistake that will keep the team moving toward its goal. However, since the team may not have mastered a particular skill yet, mistakes, while certain to happen, are viewed as part of the process.


5. Make the tough calls, too

The coach remains connected to the team by making the right decisions, not the popular or easy ones. When teammates see their leaders struggling to make tough decisions, but wind up doing the right thing, the players will be willing to go the distance for them.

6. Encourage and stretch

The coach regularly recognizes great effort, outstanding performance and desired results, and challenges players whose performance is sub-standard to get better.

7. Put them all together

If you can put all these beliefs together, you will CONNECT players to the team by showing that they MATTER, that their skills are IMPORTANT to the achievement of goals and that EACH player’s contributions are NEEDED for the TEAM to SUCCEED.

Dave Cooper is a sports consultant, author and lecturer on how to get optimum sports experiences and results. He has made presentations to national conferences and teams and consults one-on-one with players. He has coached for more than 18 years, and has taught in Canada, the United States and Tahiti. You can reach Dave at ML Sports Management, 905-830-4192, or


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