ARE YOU TEACHING A WINNING CULTURE? -Contributed by Coach Sherry Winn

Benjamin Franklin’s Seventh Rule of Management was: Create your own set of values to guide your actions. One of the biggest challenges in education today is the lack of self-values, because our parents have created children who believe in the easy-button method to self-esteem and success. Our families have forgotten how to teach boundaries, reinforce positive behaviors, punish negative behaviors, and communicate that failure is necessary on the journey to success.


Educators, including coaches, are now faced with a group of young people with a gap wedged between their values and their actions. Our youth believe they can attain their goals without core values, the essence of which determines their success or failure.

It is NOT their fault.

Our youth have been taught that they are wonderful, incredible human beings, which is true. BUT, they have NOT been taught that they must address their limitations and weaknesses, which if left unchecked, can lead to failure.

If you cannot admit that you need to improve yourself as a human being, you will live the life of a victim. A victim is a person who blames outside events, circumstances, and other people for why they are who they are. The success or failure of an athletic team or department is based on creating a winning culture. Cultures are based on values. Your ability to establish a set of principles and values is essential to the continued success of your student-athletes on and off the court.

The year that my team, the Golden Eagles, were ranked #3 in the nation, my All-American and career-leading scorer decided that she was too good for the team. Lisa told her teammates, “I don’t want to live in Charleston anymore. I want to move to Knoxville, TN.”

I told Lisa, “You cannot tell your teammates that you don’t want to be a part of them and expect them to play with you.”

She told me, “You can’t tell me what to say or do.”

I said, “One of our core principles on this team is to be the teammate that creates a common bond. Because your words are hurting your teammates and our chances of winning a national championship, you are breaking our first rule of the team. Let’s sit down and talk about this.”

“I’m not going to meet with you, and you can’t make me.” I responded, “Actually, I am the coach of this program. If you choose not to talk to me, then you are no longer on this team. Clean out your locker and go.”

“You can’t do that to me.”

“I can, and I will. If you want to be a part of this team, you’ve got to adhere to the core values of this team.”

Believe me. The last thing I wanted to do was dismiss our best player and our chances to win a national championship, but I also knew that if I didn’t stand for our values that no other player would. When core values are connected to your culture, your team members discover a higher purpose for playing. That higher purpose leads to increased motivation and dedication to success. Because our team had established core values, Lisa understood the consequences of breaking our values. We eventually had a conversation that led to Lisa becoming not only the best player in our conference, but one of the best in the nation, leading us back to the Elite Eight.

“You cannot separate who you are from what you want. To get what you want, you must change who you are.” -Coach Winn

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Coach Winn is a Two-Time Olympian, Award-Winning Speaker and Author. She is the creator of the WIN Philosophy and the WINNER Principles. To discover more about her, you can find her at To contact her for keynotes, or educational sessions on leadership, communication, and team building, email

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