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Industry Insights

Building Company Culture

By Melissa Wickes
May 12, 2022
4 min

The first pillar of the five dimensions of youth sports management (which spell out COACH) is culture. Like in any other organization, having a strong culture is one of the most important things the leaders can build inside the organization. The culture is typically built around a strongly held and widely shared set of beliefs and values

When an organization has a strong culture, everyone from parent volunteers and coaches to administrative staff knows how they are supposed to behave and how to respond to any situation. When asked to describe the culture of the U.S. Women’s National Team that won the 1999 World Cup, Carla Overbeck (captain) called it “a culture that felt like family” both on and off the field.

Let’s take a look at what a winning culture consists of and how you can focus on building company culture at your youth sports organization.

Building Company Culture: What Makes a Strong Culture

Values, mission, and goal-setting

Culture begins at the top of an organization, according to Neal Shenoy, CEO of Begin and an investor who has helped many companies grow and scale. For smaller organizations especially, it’s essential that the people leading the team to success believe in and set the precedent for company values and a mission statement for it to be present throughout the organization. The same goes for setting company goals.

To establish your company goals and mission, follow these tips from Masterclass. 

  1. Clearly define your goals and don’t over-complicate them
  2. Your goals should establish both a short-term and long-term strategy for your business
  3. Set ambitious but achievable goals
  4. Set goals that help your team see the overall company vision and require teamwork

Hiring, recruiting, and retention

A winning culture inside your youth sports organization will help you hire the right team—volunteer and paid—and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal. Especially now, in the wake of the “great resignation,” you want to make sure you’re not only working toward hiring the right people the first time around, but making sure they want to stick around once they’re there. After all, employee turnover leaves holes in your team, which negatively affects your team’s morale and focus.

Think about the early days of Zappos and their happiness guarantee. Every employee who worked there knew they were empowered to do whatever it took to make the customer happy. They were even given daily budgets to provide gifts of happiness should they deem a customer needed some extra sunshine in their life. The stories are what legends are made of. That is the epitome of a strong culture.

For more tips for holding onto great employees, read this book—Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose in which the CEO of Zappos explains how focusing on company culture can lead to success. 

Human resources

A human resources department manages so many things—with a main focus on attracting and retaining professionals. To do that, enforcing a quality culture is absolutely pivotal. Here are some ways your human resources team can help maintain your company culture throughout the organization.

  • Effective communication. Managing relationships between parents, players, and coaches can be tricky. Here are some tips for excellent communication in a youth sports organization.
  • Managing confrontation. When something goes wrong, it may be uncomfortable to confront. But doing so in a gracious and professional way is extremely important. 

For some youth sports specific tips for managing difficult conversations with your customers, watch this Q&A with Charlie Hauck—president and founder of consultancy Growth Dynamics.

  • Publicize. Getting the word out about your organization and what it’s like to work there will be helpful in recruitment.
  • Openness. Honest and approachable should be two key qualities of every human resources department. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

Ensuring that everyone who is a part of your organization—from coaches to administration to players to families—feels welcome and able to thrive regardless of their ethnicity, race, ability, sexual orientation, gender, or anything else, should be top of mind. Some ways you can make diversity, equity, and inclusion central to your organization’s culture are as follows, according to Sapling.

  1. Build an inclusive company culture
  2. Set key performance indicators—and hold people accountable for achieving them.
  3. Involve the entire team.
  4. Build a fair hiring process.
  5. Pay attention to pay equity.
  6. Sponsor employee resource groups.
  7. Act on team member feedback.
  8. Revisit employee benefits.
  9. Offer DEI education
  10. Talk about it!

Leadership development

A leadership team is not able to be its most successful if each leader is not learning and growing in their field. By taking the time to better your leaders—whether it’s through courses, speakers, or other resources—you’ll lead your team to sustained success. This graphic below from the Center for Creative Leadership illustrates four reasons to invest in leadership development at your organization.

building company culture

Building Company Culture at Your Youth Sports Organization

Stay tuned as we go deeper into each of the dimensions of youth sports management (COACH) so you can learn more about how they can be used to grow your organization.  Next in this series is Operational Excellence. 

To stay updated on this series, keep up with our blog—where you’ll access everything you need to stay in the know about youth sports today.