May 20th, 2019

Segall Says: Approaching team culture and accountability in sport

By Kristina Segall on March 15, 2019.

I recently had the privilege of attending a Winning Edge Seminar with Tara Chisholm, the head coach of the Canadian Women’s Para Hockey Team. The focus of her presentation was on team culture and accountability. The presentation was outstanding and four points resonated with me.

1. On a great team, it’s hard to determine who the leader is. Whether or not you’re the captain on your team, you still have a leadership role to play. When everyone is held accountable for their actions, and understands the role they need to take for their team to be successful, that is when the team excels.

For a team to achieve their goals, all players must take a leadership role.

2. Moments of tension build bonds; they are not built in the easy moments of victory. As coaches, bosses and educators, there are going to be hard moments when you need to communicate with someone who is not reaching performance standards. Taking the time to address the issue before it is repeated and taking steps to improve is when bonds are built. That bond is built on trust and accountability, which can then be celebrated and realized in victory.

3. Deliver the negative stuff in person. Joe Maddon, the baseball manager for the Chicago Cubs has a large fish bowl, filled with pieces of paper. On these pieces of paper, there are the names of expensive bottles of wine. When he needs to talk to a player, he will invite them in, to grab a piece of paper. The player will return with the bottle of wine, which will be opened when they have their talk. This was a neat story Tara shared to illustrate how discussion with a player needs to be done in person, on a personable basis, with the goal of working together to come up with a plan that will help the player and their team realize their full potential. Do not send negative news through an email or text, have the courage to meet with your player in person.

4. No involvement equals no commitment. To build team accountability, players must be involved with setting team goals or they will have no commitment to achieve those goals. The same thing applies in the workplace. In general, people are more committed to ideas or goals that they were involved in creating. Ensure that you take the time to involve your team, whether that is setting your team goals or rules, or strategies for success.

Kristina Segall is the coordinator of the Alberta Sport Development Centre-Southeast. She can be reached via email at and via phone at 403-504-3547.

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