Are You Creating An Environment For Growth within your Sports Program?

By Bo Hanson

We believe that if you alter the environment, you alter the behavior that emerges from within it, this includes; individual behavior, team dynamics, accountability and trust. As Coaches (and sports administrators), our aim is to create an environment within our sports program or club that promotes and nourishes growth.

As Coaches we control the environment. You can think about environment as more than just the facilities that you operate in and the equipment you use. You need to think about the environment you create around your team culture. As a Coach, your coaching style influences the team culture and the behaviors that emerge from it.

We believe that if you alter the environment, you alter the behavior that emerges from within it, this includes; individual behavior, team dynamics, accountability and trust. As Coaches (and sports administrators), our aim is to create an environment within our sports program or club that promotes and nourishes growth.

As Coaches we control the environment. You can think about environment as more than just the facilities that you operate in and the equipment you use. You need to think about the environment you create around your team culture. As a Coach, your coaching style influences the team culture and the behaviors that emerge from it.

We often talk to Coaches who say their players don’t communicate, or ‘we don’t have trust in our team’, even, ‘we have zero accountability in our team’ or ‘no one holds each other accountable and gives feedback to one another’.

My response to those Coaches is simply, “what if my next statement was true?” It may not be, but just pretend it is; you are somehow responsible for creating those behaviors. I believe that it’s healthy for a Coach to think this way. It’s useful to think that you have such an impact over the environment you create, that those behaviors are a result of what you’ve allowed to happen in that environment.

So, if I was to describe a farmer to you. They plant their seeds at a particular time of year. That seeds’ primary job is to grow into a plant or a vegetable that we can eat. Human beings are exactly the same. We have to think about ourselves as Coaches and farmers. We need to create an environment where people can grow. It’s our destiny to improve. We have an inbuilt need to improve but we won’t under certain conditions. So it’s critical that we start thinking about the environment we want to create in our sports team, program or club.

So rather than telling an athlete that they have to be accountable, create an environment where accountability has to happen. So what would that environment look like? An environment where accountability has to happen? If we are looking at trust, under what conditions is trust the obvious outcome. We could probably think some conditions that would disable trust. For example, if an athlete or Coach wasn’t confidential. There would be no rapport or trust if no one were allowed to get to know anyone. It could be as simple as, “we focused on getting a great result, we trained really hard so we didn’t allow any time for social interaction”. If people don’t understand each other, trust can’t possibly develop. That’s why Coaches partake in team development. The team and the Coach go out to lunch together. They go out to dinner together, they just spend time together. Then, trust is a natural development.

So what constitutes a high-performance environment? It’s a question I’m often asked. I recently did a podcast where I answered this question. One thing you never hear me talk about is the quality of the facilities. A lot of environments can look like a high-performance environment, but the important thing is the behaviors that emerge from that environment.

Teams that win national championships, world championships or Olympic medals, have an environment where the behaviors of trust and accountability are present. They have total ownership over their performance. So, you need to ask yourself, what are some of the mechanisms, what are some of the systems that we need to have in place within our environment to make these behaviors happen?

I have a lot of these answers but I don’t give them away for free. Have a look on our website, there are a number of mechanisms there. For example, accountability, how do you help an athlete have an accountability conversation? We may want all of our players to hold each other accountable. Most young people don’t know how to do that, in fact most older people don’t know how to do that. It’s uncomfortable. Not unsafe, but uncomfortable.

When we talk about accountability conversations, we talk about, noticing behavior, then checking if people are okay, then asking how you can help. We will role-play that scenario or situation so that athletes can learn how to do it properly. And what they learn is that, the conversation doesn’t diminish trust. It actually builds it. Because the only reason you would have a conversation like that, is if you truly care. So environments where we can give and receive feedback, are typically environments which drive accountability.

So have a think about the environment you create. Check-in and think about whether you have athletes upholding the standards of behavior that you expect. Do you have people giving each other feedback? Are you open to feedback as a Coach? If you’re not comfortable with feedback, that alone will destroy any chance of your athletes giving each other feedback. Do you allow your players to take ownership? We have programs where the athletes decide what they do? When we review their game from the weekend and we talk about the aspects we need to improve, they help decide on some exercises to make that happen. When you allow that to occur, the athletes naturally want to contribute, because they want to do well for you. So check in with yourself, check in with the culture that you created. Ask yourself the question, is this environment going to enable growth?


At Athlete Assessments, we’re experts in the people side of sport. We know sport and live high performance every day. Our reputation and proven success at the elite level speaks for itself. The results that our National, Olympic, Professional and Collegiate team clients achieve directly reflects their focus on getting the people side right.

Athlete Assessments’ Team Programs have been specifically designed to maximize the people side of your team.

  • Winning Back to Back ChampionshipsAchieve improved performance with better communication, relationship and conflict strategies
  • Get a ‘blue-print’ on how to coach to your athletes’ specific needs
  • Know with confidence how to develop strong team chemistry
  • Team Programs include DISC Profiles, detailed Coach’s Resources & Consultations
  • Work with a 4x Olympian with over 15 years in Coach Development & Leadership Training
  • Guaranteed to deliver improved performance and results

Looking to catch up?
You can watch all videos in the 5 Minutes with Bo Hanson series.

At Athlete Assessments we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and to help you be your best. If there is anything we can do to be of service, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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