How One Team Made the Most of Their Talent by Exploiting Culture | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How One Team Made the Most of Their Talent by Exploiting Culture


It's one of those words that get banded about in sport and in business as an explanation for everything. Champions are pinned with the tag of having a winning culture, losers have the failure mentality.

It makes you wonder how you can emulate a winning environment.

Critics look at the word and scoff. They rightly point out that sides with a winning 'culture' also always seem to have incredibly talented players. They argue that culture doesn't exist outside individual abilities.

So what's the truth; can you create a winning culture or are you forever tied to the cricketing ability of your team?

Assuming you can't do much with the hand of players you are dealt, all you can focus on is the culture of the side.

I played in a team once that was made up mainly of players in their late 20's and early 30s. They had played together for years and were a tight-knit team. They knew their roles. There was trust.

These were men with careers and family priorities. They loved playing cricket, they were loyal club members. What they just couldn't do was put in much - if any - time to practice. Senior players often dropped out through other commitments.

This was fine when we did well. But when standards started to slip and performances were inconsistent, confidence drained from the side. Despite the odd good effort, results were terrible.

There was very little that could be done to make these players better cricketers on a technical or tactical level. We were all capable of playing to the standard required. We just, as a team, were underperforming.

You certainly couldn't say we had a winning culture.

But you also couldn't say the side had a cultural problem.

People didn't train through practicality rather than indifference. On the day, the side knew what they had to do, they just couldn't do it regularly enough.

No amount of team-building nights out, or extra net sessions put on by the captain would help: they were certainly tried.

But what did help in the end was a reframing of the culture.

Rebuild talent with culture

We worked out with the side we had we would always have a certain amount of up and down form. There would be bad days as the trade-off for no practice.

What we could do was change the culture of the side to rebuild shattered confidence. So the captain started making sure we were more supportive of each other.

  • We encouraged each other to remember times we played well.
  • We told each other we were on the way up. While there was an element of "fake it until you make it", we refused to accept negative thinking.
  • We cut back on the mickey-taking to take the pressure off fielding and made sure to back each other when we did something well.
  • We each stopped hoping we would play well and remembered exactly what we each needed to do to perform.
  • If things didn't go our way, we refused to give up. We remembered that things can turn around very quickly.

We didn't become a winning side - far from it - but we did play more to our potential and spent less time in a slump of confidence. It showed enough in our games that we narrowly avoided relegation.

The culture shifted enough to allow talented players to show a little more of their skill without feeling under pressure.

And that for me is what a good culture does, whatever the details of how you get there.

For more on building a winning team culture with the talent you have, buy The Game Plan: How to Build A Winning Cricket Team from former first-class coach and player Adrian Shaw.

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IMO, a culture dedicated to winning is not a winning culture.
We are not professionals, we play for fun. A club culture that keeps that in mind is going to be more successful in the long term. Yes people want to win, but they don't want to win at all costs.

I'd rather play for a team that emphasised: player development, opportunities for players of all abilities, long term club development, respect and courtesy for opponents and officials, enjoying in each other's success, and the simple joy of getting out their on the pitch, as much as focusing on winning games.

I think if you focus solely on winning today's game above all else, you are actually taking your eye off the big picture of building a sustainable, successful, happy club that the players love to be involved with.

That's an interesting point, and one that often conflicts within clubs. Some players are very serious about winning. Perhaps they plan to be professionals themselves. The culture of winning is all important.

However, I'm willing to be most people agree with you AB. The club is there for various reasons beyond winning. However, I'm not sure how that influences the training/playing culture within a club. Interesting discussion point.

I think most of the time the two things are in alignment, other times you have to sacrifice the prospect of winning the game for the good of the club: eg giving different players a chance to have a bowl or a bat in the top 3 rather than just the same 4 guys every week. Even if it means you lose one extra game each season, it should make you a stronger happier club in the long run.