December 20, 2021 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

10 Traits of Successful Athletic Programs — Part II

As we travel our country to speak, we get the opportunity to observe a lot of different high school and college programs. We have also learned that the two main places we get invited are those schools that are very successful and those that are struggling. Those who are struggling have a strong desire to change their direction and success — at the college level, it is often about keeping their job. Those who are very successful are successful for many reasons but one of them is that they are always trying to get better. They are always looking for an edge to keep them ahead of the pack. 

traitsHere is the final installment of the common traits of successful athletic programs we work with. The first five traits were in the last article linked below. 

  • Positive Rites of Passage – Intentionally created positive traditions provide a path for athletes to be welcomed, and to grow into leadership. Nothing that could be considered hazing is ever-present. Is there an intentionally developed plan to transition your athletes from the time they enter your program until they leave? (Incoming freshmen; freshmen to sophomore; sophomore to junior; junior to senior; senior to exiting the program)

One Application Idea – Develop a big sister/brother program with those in your junior class every year adopting a freshman and staying with them for two years. The goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable transition for the first two years. Work with your leadership council on a specific welcoming ceremony with your incoming athletes to serve them and teach them the core covenants of your team. 

  • Consistent Performance Feedback – Coaches know how to balance praise and correction. Athletes should be taught how to take correction as a compliment. Being coachable and having a teachable spirit should be part of your team culture. Everyone knows that performance feedback is necessary for growth. Great team cultures have coaches and athletes with a growth mindset.

One Application Idea – Make “Feedback is the Norm” part of your team culture. Everyone in the program expects it, accepts it, and embraces it.

  • Trust – Players trust each other and their coaches. Trust is one of the single most important traits that allows all the others to function well. To change the level of trust on a team is to dramatically impact time, efficiency, performance, and outcomes. Trust sets up an ideal environment for learning. On a team with mutually high trust, communication can be open, honest, direct, transparent, and believed, players develop loyalty, they are engaged, share the credit, trust their training, have high accountability and the trust displaces fear so they compete fearlessly. Very simply when coaches develop a high trust culture, they have a better chance to win. Low trust teams will struggle to succeed.  

One Application Idea – Start with your coaching staff doing a book study with “The Impact of Trust” booklet and email me for a Trust Assessment Document that supports the booklet.

  • Master Motivators Create a Sense of Urgency – Successful teams have players and coaches with a high energy level. Individual and team discipline is visible in the focused attention and focused effort of everyone. There is a feeling of “what we are doing right here, right now is important.” There is engagement and details are important. Only disciplined, motivated teams have a chance to win championships.

One Application Idea – Find a high-energy program, regardless of sport, and go observe. Energy cannot be missed and it is an eye-opener. Do not accept excuses of why it cannot happen in your program. Make energy part of your core covenants for both coaches and players.


  • Impact the Player’s Lives – Players in these programs treasure the experience so much that they carry the lessons and values over — beyond the season and into their lives. They build successful teams of their own, using the methods they learned in your culture. Players and coaches choose to stay connected after the playing experience ends.  

One Application Idea – To help maintain contact, keep a list of all your players’ birthdays and make an effort to call or text each current and former player. It doesn’t take long to acknowledge special days and it keeps the relationship moving forward.

The most successful programs have the most intentional leadership and that starts with us. In perpetually strong athletic programs, each of these strengths is done with absolute intention and design. EXCELLENCE IS NEVER AN ACCIDENT!

For support materials, go to our website – For additional application ideas email [email protected]. To bring a Proactive Coaching speaker to your school or community email [email protected].