Four Ingredients That Contribute to a Positive Team Culture

Photo Courtesy: Sofia Shah

Four Ingredients That Contribute to a Positive Team Culture

By Catherine Gibbs, Swimming World College Intern

Have you ever been on a “downer” team: One that is filled with negativity, unhealthy competition, or conflict? For those who may have, it sure isn’t a great feeling and can have a detrimental effect on performance and team camaraderie.

A common belief in the sporting world is that team culture can have a big impact on how well a team functions and performs. When it comes to a swim team, culture can boost chances of success in the water just as easily as it can hinder it.

Here are some ways that swimmers can contribute towards successfully creating a more positive team culture:

Take ownership

The University of Michigan women's swimming and diving team compete on the third day of the 2019 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. Bloomington, IN, Feb. 22, 2019

Photo Courtesy: Walt Middleton Photography 2019

It can feel scary stepping up and taking ownership of your experience. You question what it looks like to take ownership of your training, your leadership, team planning, etc. It takes a lot to be the one suggesting ideas and going above and beyond what is expected. Going outside of your comfort zone, putting in the extra work after practice, avoiding following the crowd, and not complaining can make one feel out of place from the rest. However, one swimmer stepping up can help start the domino effect on the rest of the team also wanting to take ownership of their success. Instead of avoiding their responsibilities, they embrace them.

Energy as a domino effect


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

We are unable to control many of the events that go on in our lives. However, we can change our perception and responses to those events. How we perceive life events can determine our outcome. In terms of swimming, how we perceive a hard practice or even a bad race can affect our whole perception of not just those particular events but also anything else that can occur throughout one’s swim career.

This is where having real positive energy can help overcome these obstacles and challenges to create success. Having positive energy and positive people helps create positive results. We also have a choice between having either positive or negative energy. As a visual aid, think of dominoes: It only takes one to fall to cause others to move until the end result occurs and all dominoes have fallen.

Having our actions speak the loudest


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Life is about actions – the daily things that compound into habits. It is the little things we do every day that help us determine who we are and who we become. Swimming is all about action. Little, good habits build on top of one another into something much larger over time. We make choices that impact our careers both in and out of the pool. The best way to have a positive impact on the team culture is through your own daily actions. Actions are more revealing of one’s true character. It is easy to make a promise, yet it takes effort to follow through.

Great leadership is key


Photo Courtesy: Denison Athletics Communications

Great leaders on teams go beyond motivational pep talks and crazy cheering. They set a good example through their positive actions both in and out of the pool. It can look like listening to teammates who might be having a tough time, whether swimming-related or not; being present for teammates who might need reassurance; putting in the extra work that goes beyond expectations; supporting the moments of success for others even if you are not having the same success. Great leaders do this while also having constant, uplifting energy that makes other teammates want to gravitate towards them. Teammates will follow these upbeat, motivating leaders because of how much better they actually make them feel.

How do you create a positive team culture?

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. avatar
    Madison Cho

    Great Article!

  2. avatar
    Chris Hanson

    What an amazing article. All of this context is just outstanding and so true.

  3. avatar

    Great culture starts from the top down. Be sure your team has a coach who sets a good example.

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