Team Culture Tips – Oklahoma Coach Sherri Coale

By Stephanie Zonars

Maybe you’ve read the book What Drives Winning by Brett Ledbetter—the culmination of hundreds of interviews with pro athletes, championship coaches and leading researchers that uncover the intangibles necessary for success.

He held a conference last year, and in checking out the videos on his website I came across this interview with Oklahoma women’s basketball coach, Sherri Coale.

It packs so much incredible insight about building culture that you’ve got to give it a look.

Then keep reading for the nuggets I found most helpful.



Write Things Down

This is so important! Your players should not only have notebooks, but they should bring a pen to EVERY team meeting for taking notes. They can’t possibly remember all the things you tell them. They need to write them down. Research proves that this helps retention.

And I absolutely LOVE Sherri’s post-game reflection sheet. Did you hear all the insights she gains from one simple exercise? It eliminates assumptions about how players feel after a game. You may think an athlete is down because she didn’t play, but find out something different from her sheet. Huge.


It also gives them a voice. As she said, they understand more than you think. When you value their thoughts and respond to them as she does by writing notes on their papers before giving them back, they feel ownership in the process.

Returning Players Write Advice to Freshmen

What a great way to value the experiences of your upperclassmen. And a wonderful reminder that the things they value and find important are trust, relationships and connections.

Prioritize 1:1 Time with Players

You are one of the biggest reasons why your athlete chose your program. Something about you—your experience, expertise, personality, coaching style—caused them to say yes.

Your job isn’t done once they sign. It’s just beginning!

Make time in your schedule for individual time with them, and not just for extra film sessions. If you want their trust, you’ve got to invest in getting to know them and allowing them to get to know you.

Weekly Team Circles

Building culture takes time. And it won’t happen just through practice time. You’ve got to make time to cultivate team relationships. Ask questions. Become okay with the silence. Create a safe space for authentic sharing. Foster an environment where it’s ok to tell the truth, admit mistakes and ask for/receive forgiveness.

These ideas work for Coach Coale and fit who she is as a person. You might feel comfortable using them as they are, or you may need to tweak them to fit your style.

Either way, let them inspire you to be intentional about building a better team culture!


Team Culture Tips From Oklahoma Coach Sherri Coale appeared first on Life Beyond Sport.

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Stephanie Zonars helps coaches build and maintain championship cultures through her business, Life Beyond Sport. Teams at Penn State, Notre Dame, West Point and over 65 other schools have built stronger trust, communication and teamwork through her workshops. Stephanie spent three years on staff with the Penn State women’s basketball team, assisting the team to back-to-back Big Ten Championships. An author of four books, she now serves as Assistant AD of Marketing & Promotions at Cedarville University. Learn more at

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