Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Our Blueprint for Action

Our Action Research Questions: 
How can we create a cohesive, positive team culture that will help us reach championship status? What activities or messages can help us attain this culture? What role do team captains play in fostering such a culture?

Situating Strong Championship Culture in the Context of Strong Team Culture: 

Through our survey and various interviews, we recognized that there was a clear disconnect between translating positive team culture into strong championship culture. We asked each of our teammates to define “team culture” and “championship culture.” Their responses and general sentiment are aggregated in the figures below. Through a deeper analysis of our results, it became clear that although our team, in general, agreed that we have strong team culture, only 1 person strongly agreed that we have strong championship culture. 

Some examples of survey responses when asked: Do you think Harvard Women's Lacrosse team culture reflects that of a championship culture? If so, why? If not, why not?

No, because winning is not the priority and team members are not willing to make sacrifices towards attaining this goal. The goal is also not shared by all members of the team.

In some aspects yes, in others no. I think we can do more as a team to be better and work harder. I think everyone wants to win and be the best but not everyone is willing to do what it takes to reach that point.

To a certain extent. I think we have a great team culture, however, I don't think the two go directly hand in hand. A team can have a great team culture, but not so great championship culture. I think in our case we have a great team culture, but our championship culture is lacking a bit. It takes time to develop a great championship culture and I think that this years change in coaching staff will enable us to grow that culture.

The Role of Captains and Non-Formal Leaders:

We asked each of our teammates to list five qualities they believed a team captain should have. The most common characteristics they listed were dedicated, good communication skills, confident, accountable, hard working, and selfless. Perhaps even more useful to our analysis were the team’s responses to our question asking them to describe the role of non-formal leaders in building and sustaining team culture. Our teammates generally felt that non-formal leaders should be positive, approachable, committed, supportive, encouraging, caring, and respectful.

It can't be only the formal leaders who embody what we want our team to be, it has to be embodied by everyone from the top down. Therefore, non-formal leaders need to step up and continue these values in support of the leadership.

While the captains and coaches might inspire changes, the other leaders are the ones that get the team to follow.

Recommendations for Action: 
  1. Establish standards early. Check in on standards often. 
    • Host a workshop to establish and clearly outline team norms, expectations, and values at the beginning of the fall, ensuring that each category is aligned with the team’s overarching goals.
    • Develop a system to continually and uniformly hold people to the agreed upon standards. For example, weekly check-ins with captains and grades as a group.
  2. Focus on individual and group priorities.
    • Facilitate open dialogue to ensure that the team’s priorities are reflective of those of a championship caliber team.
    • Use various resources (coaches, sports psychologist, etc.) to implement a series of activities that will highlight the importance of valuing your sport at the division one level.
  3. Create more concrete conflict resolution protocol.
    • With agreed upon criteria, team members will be less fearful of dealing with conflict and will be more inclined to deal with situations appropriately.
  4. Invest in every team member’s leadership abilities.
    • Leaders, formal and non-formal, should attend grade-specific leadership workshops throughout the course of the year and use the skills they learn on a daily basis.
  5. Implement exercises of self-reflection.
    • Continue meditation practices before playing.
    • Require journaling once a week as a way for team members to reflect on their progress towards reaching their own goals as well as the goals of the team.
    • Encourage team members to outline actions they can take in order to help the team win.
    • Give people an outlet to reflect on why they play for Harvard Women’s Lacrosse.


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