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Joe Ehrmann On Team Culture

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Joe Ehrmann (@JoeEhrmann76), a PCA National Advisory Board Member and winner of PCA's Ronald L. Jensen Award for Lifetime Achievement, is a former NFL Pro Bowl defensive lineman, founder of Coach For America and author of InSide Out Coaching. Ehrmann gained additional prominence when Parade Magazine dubbed him “the most important coach in America” for his unorthodox, but highly effective, coaching at Gilman School in the Baltimore area. Ehrmann was also the subject of Season of Life by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Marx.

Ehrmann discusses the power a team culture has on the lives of youth athletes in this video. Coaches must figure out what culture they want to create on their team. For Ehrmann’s high school football team, he builds a culture on empathy, kindness and services to others. He lets this culture drive his actions and relationships with the players, and here he discusses how powerful this is compared to swearing at and shaming impressionable kids.

To reinforce his team culture, Ehrmann tells his players that if they are having a hard moment during a game or practice that they can always expect a hug. Imagine the powerful influence a hug has when high school boys are feeling nervous or low-spirited, and how this validates their efforts versus leaving them questioning their abilities. Coaches should use this as an example for how they can positively influence a team by setting cultural expectations that don’t leave young athletes feeling vulnerable.