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If you spend any amount of time around the Asheville Christian Academy (ACA) Athletic Department, you will most definitely hear the phrase “many lions, one pride.” It is a mantra we have used for the past two years and have adopted for our Strength and Conditioning program. It has helped us tremendously in building team culture.
The reason I love this phrase, and why it works so well for a team, is that students need to feel like they are part of something bigger than the program itself. Each athlete, coach, and team bring different gifts, skills, and talents but serve and compete alongside each other with common goals such as relationship, commitment, team play and winning.
There are many lions that make up a pride (a group) of lions. Each lion has different contributions that it can bring to the group, and each contribution is as important as the others. Here at ACA, we wanted to bring our entire athletic program under the same culture and try to build a sense of community and family within our various teams.
As the S&C coach, I was the first to jump on board given I see and work with so many of our athletes each day. I believe that as a strength program having the same culture and standards as our athletic program, rather than individual athlete culture, our students are able to see that although they are one athlete they are part of the bigger pride.
Currently, in our program, I have about 100 athletes over the course of a school day, not including after-school sessions. In the weight room, we continue to drive our culture of "Many Lions, One Pride" with how we set up our rack teams.
When I set up a rack team for class, I will pair up an athlete who has been in the program with one or two new athletes. Having a veteran allows me to focus on teaching the lifts and the younger athletes follow and learn our culture from the veterans. I will also take into account the sports season and try to keep our athletes together who are in-season.
This has been helpful to keep our athletes focused on the common goal. With the change of each sports season, we are also able to move our athletes around in groups which gives them the opportunity to get to know their peers.
In our program, we require our athletes to wear ACA Strength and Conditioning uniforms. Now I know that some of you hate the idea of uniforms but hear me out on this.
As athletes when we step onto the field or court, we all have on the same uniform. It shows that we are part of a team and are working together towards a common goal. Having our students in our programs apparel shows that we are part of something bigger. It instills the idea that, "it's not about me, it's about getting better for my team and our athletic department."
We slowly rolled this into place by first asking students to wear their team shirts or our program shirts. Then we added the shorts and required them along with an ACA shirt and now we are in the position where each student must wear both shirt and shorts.
When you walk into our facility you can tell that we are here to work and that each athlete is on the same page.
I got this from Michael Bewely at Clemson Men's Basketball when I went down to visit him last month. I challenge our athletes that these three things are something that they can bring no matter what day it is.
Each of us has stuff that is going on in our lives and there will be days that we might not be at our best but we can always be there to support our brothers and sisters in strength. Our athletes and ourselves included have the option to bring positive or negative energy into the room each day. This energy sets the mood for the training session and can encourage or tear down an athlete.
Secondly, the effort that is put into the session. The weight room is a great place to set aside the chaos of the day to day grid and release. Lastly, we challenge our students to have an attitude of gratitude. Each day is a gift and we should come in with the attitude to get better and support others in their journey as well.
Building and creating a culture of unity and team among individual athletes is something that can drastically change the overall perception of a program and take that program to a new level. These strategies for building team culture have worked well for us and our program has grown tremendously in participation. Creating an opportunity for athletes to become part of something bigger than themselves or their sport is imperative to overall success and health of your program.
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