Coaches are always striving to improve their club culture.

Changing Club Culture

At this time of the year most clubs are wrapping up their season and commencing reviews or planning processes for 2011. For some this will be business as usual, some will be going about the appointment of new coaches and others may be looking at ways to change the ways things are done in the club. For coaches starting out at a new a club, or coaches looking to initiate change, this article written by Simon Eastaugh, provides some valuable advice, based on his experiences as Senior Coach at Perth Football Club.

By Simon Eastaugh

The Initial Planning

Planning is an essential component of being successful, not only as a coach, but in life in general.

It is important to take a holistic view of the club which you are about to join and do your home work. It is essential to have a thorough look at the entire club, from its players to the area in which the club resides.

The approach has to be thorough to say the least, with an extensive background search on the club and its football operations.

With the major focus revolving around cultural change, the playing group requires a full review, identifying the A grade players, the established regular senior players, the succession player (those who consistently played Reserves football) and then the younger players, including those graduating from the Colts, (under 18’s program).

The first area suggested to be examined of course is the club itself, with a brief overview of its recent history, possible staffing changes and the philosophies behind on and off field performance.

This would indicate if there are any underlying issues with the club and its football operations that may need to be addressed.

Secondly, and as mentioned earlier, a full review of the current playing list is essential. Try to ascertain what type of players are at the club, study the players that have left and attempt to find any reasons why they may have to decided to move on. Highlight what each player brings to the squad as strengths and the areas they need to improve.

Implementing Change

It is important to have a vision on what you want to achieve, and have a clear plan set out on how to achieve the changes. The right people assisting bring the required energy and enthusiasm required to effect change.

Having a series of major focuses to implement gives you a clear pathway to achieving the vision, it’s important to remain dedicated to what you wish to achieve, despite issues that may appear to compromise the plan.

Enhancing the Appearance of the Football Facilities

The environment can have a huge influence on people’s perceptions and actions, as proven by in-depth studies in fields such as marketing and security. For example, atmospherics such as lighting, décor and music in a restaurant setting have been proven to increase customer satisfaction and worker output.

One of the first things to set about changing is the facilities players trained and prepared in. Even something as simple as a new coat of paint in the change-rooms can have a huge influence on how the players feel about the club and themselves. As does adding inspirational quotes on signage in the change-rooms, which encourages players to think and play the way the coaching and playing group want to play.

Firstly, the players see the change as a very real and physical presence and their mindset can change overnight.

Secondly, players and staff see that the new coach has respect for them, and showed them the coach was serious about providing the best possible facilities for them to work in.

In my own experience the reaction from the players on the physical change to the club was very positive. Players will embrace the change and see it as an important aspect if the club is going to show improvement and change the philosophy to competing.

Development Plans 

Aside from environmental changes, creating development plans for first year players and the senior leadership group gives the players a very clear and precise picture of what is required and how they were going to achieve it.  Create ownership of their club.

It is imperative that players understand their own strengths and areas to improve, and that the change that is to be implemented is what they want. Unless there is ownership of change, the process is less likely to successful. As a coach, supporting the player’s vision and setting the plan to succeed will help them achieve the end result. If the players understand your message and support, they will be more than willing to embrace it and follow the plan.

Importantly, once you’ve agreed to the direction of a player’s development or that of the squad, stick to it, remain committed and focused to the desired outcome, resisting the temptation to be reactive and constantly focus of what you’re doing wrong. We so often move towards what we focus on- both good and bad.

Remember development takes time.

Recruiting To Fill Deficiencies

Every team has its deficiencies and one of the other options available to a coach (other than developing its current player list) is to recruit players that fill that deficiency. While the playing and performance aspect is very important, the character of an individual and their manner on and off field can have a great influence on impressionable, young players providing strong role models.

Good people create good cultures.

Changing Perception of Culture

Perception of a club’s culture can be destructive and to change perception takes time, it takes genuine hard work and positive performances on and off the field, but perceptions will change. The greatest challenge is when staff and players walk out the club gates - their responsibilities and representation of the club don’t necessarily end. The club, players and officials will always be under scrutiny, especially in social settings, however you can’t be there 24/7 and with the right people on board, the right education, chances are the right outcomes will prevail.

Ultimately, coaches should introduce their own individuality on the clubs they coach. Make the changes early and show the players you are serious about the task at hand and what is required to succeed in the way you see it. When standards and expectations are set, people will buy in or opt out on their own accord and you will discover the people you want to be part of the right culture.

Treating the people that make up your club with respect and recognition of their role, establishes an environment of on and off field improvement.

Providing fitter and stronger players are not the sole ingredients to successful football teams. The small things such as the way players perceive their club and themselves can have a huge bearing on performances. The sooner players and staff recognize what you do on and off the field can effect the club’s performance, the sooner everyone is reading off the same page, working together to create the success we all crave.


Simon Eastaugh is an accredited AFL High Performance Coach and is the ruck coach at the West Coast Eagles. The former Essendon and Fremantle ruckman coached WAFL club Perth from 2005-08.  This article was written as part of Simon’s AFL High Performance Coach Accreditation.

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