What matters most isn’t necessarily the knowledge of the coach or even his ability to pass that on to his players. What matters most isn’t necessarily the talent of the players. What matters most isn’t necessarily the facilities. Obviously, those things are important–vital, even–to the apparent success of a baseball program. But, what often matters most is something every coach tries to improve and what every player contributes toward: culture.

Culture is the sum of many parts: attitude, work ethic, expectations, history, toughness, commitment, process, and so on.

Culture can make or break a good team. Culture can make a miserable experience even worse. Culture can attract better guys. Culture can cause those same guys to look elsewhere.

Culture is what your program is known for, inside of it and outside.

Culture is what your players say behind your back about you and your program.

Culture is how you feel about it all at the end of the day.

Culture is just as important as what you know, how well you communicate, and the talent of your players.

Culture might not matter much in professional sports, but at the amateur athlete level, it’s huge.

Culture is, in many ways, the one of the only things coaches can really influence.

Proverbs 11:11 speaks about culture: “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.”

To be exalted, to do well, to reach goals, to have a great culture, requires one thing: upright people. It was true of God’s people back in the Old Testament and it’s true of us today. We cannot expect our programs to attract and retain good people if our culture doesn’t promote that.

Three lessons here:

First, ensure that your upright guys outnumber those who aren’t. I get it, a team full of “good” guys who are terrible players is going to lose every game. Sure. Fair enough. But a team full of great players who don’t work hard, are inherently and incessantly selfish and uncoachable…well, good luck with that.

Second, reward what you want repeated. Most rewards are dished out for athletic performance, leaving the “upright” to wonder what contribution their character makes. Turn things upside down and reward the upright attitudes and behaviors you want to permeate your program’s culture.

Third, if a guy can’t keep his mouth shut, whether by just saying negative things about the program or by not being able to keep things in-house, perhaps you’re better to add by subtraction.

Lord Jesus, help me to promote your upright values in my program, whether I’m a player or a coach. Make me upright in the eyes of God and those around me. Amen.