Creating a “Can Do” Culture in a Sport Club

Creating a “Can Do” Sport  Culture in a  Club (or other environment where training for achievement takes place)

-a personal take from sports journalist and photographer, John Coxon

Based on proven techniques and ideas  from research , the science applied successfully in modern businesses and education to increase performance and achievement by nurturing the correct positive environment to help maintain positivity and focus can be applied to any endeavour with a  goal or ambition and applies equally to success in sport.

There is good modern scientific evidence to show that if positive “Can do” messages in text and graphic  form are placed in a working or learning environment where achievement of goals is a key objective , performance is improved and mainatianed . Winning  and achieving is  a habit in “can do” cultures,  visibly announcing  your common goal and all striving to achieve the same objectives rather than always “wannabes”  )  Sports clubs can apply this sort of knowledge to the club environment

Of course you would not expect to see specific “can do” banners in your face  all around a club in shared public areas as clubs have a social as well as sports function but for example committee rooms  and changing rooms are valid locations for such materials.  Some clubs are part of multisport centres and competition is intense for wall space but clubs very probably share core values  which apply to all sports who wear the club name with shared pride !  Common areas for social functions should however I think  celebrate and illustrate core values and reflect common aspirations .

In this respect, as two great examples from my own experience in my work as a photographer , , when I walk into Cannock Chase or Alderley Edge HC, I see nicely framed photographs recognising  and celebrating  present and past  players/teams  and  other indicators on   the walls and notice boards that say to me and subliminally to visitors “here we take pride in who we are, here we recognise and celebrate achievement. “  The “hidden” message is that   we have high expectations  for our current players. These and other clubs that have embraced this way of doing things are not the club houses built and maintained to provide refuges (with a bar) for  losers!  (Curiously such clubs also have active regularly updated and dynamic websites and make effective use of social media , Facebook and increasingly , Twitter , promoting the perception that these clubs are effective, friendly and successful. In short can do cultures know how to market themselves and communicate their excellence in a variety of ways and contexts and do much to promote a positive image of the game as a sport.


I have produced for clients in the past , a series of posters and banners  based on club and team specific photographs I have taken, simply adding my own ideas in text or specifically given to me by clients representing a club. These additions help add to the “can do” culture and are designed to inspire , motivate and remind players of key values and positive thinking . “Can do” banners and posters are also used in successful business as core mantras and in some business environments  teams of workers actually recite  business core policy values together at the beginning of a shift. That practice is mirrored in the derivative team huddle before a push back a sort of “ haka” in the round.  Just like wearing the same kit and singing as it were from the same hym book, the pre-push back group huddle  demonstrates togetherness ,  putting the self on hold and the group  first, singleness of mind , mutual support and  affirms that together you mean business. It should be part of the routine .  You do get the odd  motley crew t he other side  of the pitch ( curiously those often without a well qualified coach and sometimes  teams  who’s  territory is  the dodgy place near the awful dotted line at the drop zone on the league table ) that sort of stands around just waiting for the off  and  probably  muttering  a sote voce,” group huggies ?How uncool !)

There is sound research to prove that such rituals are effective practice as an overture to the start of battle !  We are (……… inset name of club) and we are here  to kick A*****! There is a recently emerged science of psycho linguistics  that prove that verbal and written pledges, internalised and externalised  affirmation of intent , visualisation of achieving a goal , talking it up to yourself , makes a positive outcome much more likely to occur .  “I can do this, we can do this” no provisos, no negative self-defeating self talk. No runaway train “I think I can” or “I could ifs.”

Actually verbalising  core values and “can do2 statements or having them in text form on the walls  may be mocked as a tad undignified and “ American “  in the  same  way that the imported “Have a nice day” invites suspicions,  but there is, regardless of traditional conservatism here in England , strong scientific evidence that it actually works. It is  obvious to me , without any scientific evidence that if we  allow in negative thoughts in our internal dialogues , and think of possible negative outcomes , we  will either be paralysed with self-doubt and fear of failure or back away form the challenge altogether and very probably under achieve. Self fulfilling prophesies work both ways!

For me visualisation and affirmation of core values , affirming agreed targets and winning strategies and repeating them on demand for example, should be included as a  regular practice by coaches . I used it extensively in the classroom during 26 years in special education where in particular targets, strategies and behavioural expectations (and positive and negative consequences clearly spelt out,  were actually posted up on a notice board and frequently referred to or quoted. This works for the teacher in the same way it does the pupil, or for the worker or manager, coach or player. All are left in no doubt of what the common agreed goals are , how they are best achieved  and what is expected of each of us including  the leader , coach or teacher because the writing is on the wall literally  (and especially in business where unmet targets cause heads to roll!)


To recap, Informed recent research  shows that the learning environment and working environment with positive messages , given verbally and frequently but re-enforced as permanent fixture as part of the furniture  ,  impacts on pupil and other workers achievement and performance . Such messages  do motivate (and it has been proved continue to motivate ) those who already work in that environment , serving as reminders of what is expected of each of us but also making it loud and clear what you are about and what newcomers or visitors can expect as the standard.

Clubs and organisations and businesses  often  have so called “mission”  statements, a published ethos from which simple and direct messages can be taken.  These statements   must not be seen as hollow rhetoric  or some lofty unreasonable   goals or targets that can’t be achieved. Such fakery  will be seen through , and can be counter productive and demoralising , and goals must be genuinely achievable and therefore  both specific and tailored  to that  company or group . In the case of a team or club it is helpful that players and members identify with such statements thus , for example, use decent photographs of actual members in action, say from success or participation at a major event and if possible , in the case of my own favourite sport, a moment of the emotion of just scoring the winner. There is no harm too in having other famous quotes or words of wisdom that might inspire here and there too. They don’t have to be deadly serious all the time either a long as they are likely to have impact. After a bad game and say getting trounced, such a positive  image or message might rub  salt in the wound, but also reminds and re-affirms  that we are better than that, look what we can do, have done and defeat can then be put in context as part of the learning curve and we should then refocus on our common goal.

Posters can also be used to specifically educate and inform, to influence or even change attitudes towards  others and again this puts out positive messages to visitors. This can include gender and disability issues. To  conclude on a lighter  note, or more accurately a sort of clear to orangey note ,  I recall one memorable and very useful small poster which demonstrated the virtue of knowing your target  audience and getting the message over where they were most likely to see it, (location, location , location) although I cannot remember which hockey club where I saw it although I do think it can be found amongst England hockey’s excellent nutrition and medical guidelines. It was actually above a urinal at eye level, a diagram showing different colours of urine so that players could identify different levels of performance diminishing dehydration.

Disclaimer : All images and text copyright and cannot be copied or used in any context without my written consent.

FREE PHOTOGRAPHY ?  No chance but I ask for  what I think the job is worth , no more no less. f you need quality images don’t offer peanuts , find a monkey!

Pro photography is never free, just these two lenses i use about £1500 each and my two camera bodies, ( one for back up when I am on a shoot), about £1600 each.


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