Creating a winning culture

July and August are two months where agility team GB go live putting all their practice and training into action.

The Junior European Open (JEO) happens first followed by the adults at the European Open (EO). I then have de-briefs with the handlers, coaching team members and other people involved with the teams in August, often at the Kennel Club Festival. Some organisations call these de-brief meetings wash-up meetings. I probably should rename mine…

I haven’t blogged about the EO yet, although a lot of conversations have been going on amongst the team and our supporters. Anyone following us will know that the EO2019 will be remembered as the ‘EO by night’, due to the unusually hot daytime temperatures experienced in The Netherlands which caused the organisers to run many classes in the evening and early morning.

EO agility by early morning light

For the team we’ll remember as incredibly hot and challenging and as one of our most successful EO’s. Disappointingly this isn’t reflected in our medal count. So why do we consider it successful?

Over the past few years we’ve been working hard in many areas involved with creating and running a team of elite performers. We understand our strengths and have implemented various programmes and initiatives to address our weaknesses. We are beginning to see the benefit of this work.

Some areas required for top sports performance are harder to address than others, and you don’t get rewarded with medals for that work. Pick up any autobiography by a top sports coach and you’ll see team culture as a topic everyone writes about. If I ever write a book about my experience as a coach, culture would be in there too – chapter 1.

This year it was evident in many ways that finally this elusive team culture was becoming more visible.

How do I know this?

  • When complete strangers from other countries come up to me and say “your team are so tight and always appear to be working together and supporting each other”.
  • When other coaches ask me about what we do to create that strong and visible close team bond.
  • When other teams tell me that they aspire to what Team GB are doing.
  • When our own experienced team members tell me “this was without doubt, the best team I’ve ever been part of”.
  • When I get told of volunteers (who I don’t know) saying “I’m always willing to volunteer if you ever need additional help on the team.” (NHS Sports Physiotherapist).

You don’t win medals for this feedback, but a very experienced Director once told me:

“Feedback good or painful is gold dust, you take it onboard and act on it with an open mind’.

We’ve been done exactly that over the years. We’ve taken onboard the feedback, we’re creating a new culture and we’re now seeing the benefit of that coming through in the results for the overall team, not just in one height category, or one group of handlers.

You know what’s going to come next…there is always more to be done…and that will be rewarded with medals.