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a strong culture is epitomised by the level in which individuals feel they can be themselves and aren't just accepted for that, but embraced for that. it's within this acceptance, this embrace, that people feel valued. feel a part of something bigger than themselves.

when i think about the two environments i am currently involved with, there are a few indicators that highlight the strength of the culture. the first is the acknowledgement of all individuals upon arrival. i remember reading in Hugh Mackay's "The Art of Belonging", the importance of saying hello to your neighbour when you see them. it's less about the interaction and more about saying, "Hey, I see you. You're a human and I acknowledge your existence."

another indicator is the distance in which individuals are willing to drive to be a part of that environment. when i tell people i play for salisbury inter i'm often greeted with, "but that's so far away! why them?" and my answer? because i feel valued. and when you feel valued in an environment, no distance seems too great.

how is conflict resolved on your team? is it addressed, or is it ignored? how do people communicate with one another? do they attack and become defensive? or do they take ownership for their feelings? do people feel safe to express their opinions? or are they silent because of fear? are players berated for mistakes, or encouraged for their efforts? what happens in moments of stress - the ultimate test of a team's culture - do players ask for help? or do they blame?

when people ask what makes a strong culture, it's probably less about what people do and more about how they feel. i can't guarantee that if another club implemented these few examples that their culture would be magically transformed - these behaviours are a by-product of the feeling. the feeling of safety and connection.

so when it comes to a team's culture, instead of focusing on changing behaviours, implementing rules, or 'stress tests' - what if you instead focused on creating this feeling of safety? on prioritising relationships over all else? only then might some of the aforementioned behaviours start to evolve.

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