Athletes learn about improving team culture

Sunday, June 17, 2018
Article Image Alt Text

Hunter Herbaugh photo

Randy Jackson, head football coach for North Forney High School in Forney, Texas, talks to student athletes from Dawson County High School and Washington Middle School about improving themselves to improve their game.

Student athletes from both the middle school and high school walked into the Dawson County High School cafeteria on Thursday last week to learn how to improve their game by improving themselves first. Randy Jackson, head football coach and campus coordinator at North Forney High School in Forney, Texas and author of best selling book “Culture Defeats Strategy,” spoke to the assembled student athletes about how improving the culture within their respective teams can help them improve as athletes.

“My many years of coaching have taught me one thing – creating the right culture within the program will lead to success. In other words, Culture Defeats Strategy every single time. I believe this fully and have made this my mission everywhere I’ve had the privilege of coaching,” Jackson said on his website,

Although the material covered in Jackson’s book is more oriented toward coaches, according to him, he still had invaluable lessons to pass down to the players. Jackson’s lecture was split into three parts, each part focusing on helping the athletes become more involved in improving the culture of their teams and themselves.

Jackson’s first lesson was about improving how each athlete presented themselves, insisting that proper body language was a large part of being a good player. To demonstrate his point, Jackson showed several pictures and video clips of slouching or otherwise sluggish looking athletes. One video clip showed a player with slumped shoulders and sullen eyes looking at the floor, moving as though his team had already lost. Looking at the pictured athlete, Jackson asked DCHS Athletic Director Ryan Buckley if he would let that player stay in the game. Buckley’s answer was a firm “no.” He directed the same question to the audience. The audience answered “no.”

Jackson explained that good body language can affect a person’s mental state, boosting confidence and improving performance.

“If you’re a basketball player, and you’re gonna go shoot a free throw, you need to have big body posture because your brain is going to be more confident,” he said.

The second lesson Jackson taught was how to be a leader within a team. Opening with the adage “leaders eat last”, Jackson distinguished the difference between being a good player and being a leader, explaining that leaders were the ones that put the team before themselves, acting as a protector for their teammates.

“If you want to be a captain, you need to think about ‘am I a protector or not, am I a servant or not?’ The cost of leadership is the loss of self interest, so if you want to be a captain-type person it can’t be about you,” Jackson said to the athletes.

Jackson used more video clips to demonstrate the difference further. The first clip, from the Lego Batman movie, was Jackson’s example of a good player who wasn’t a good leader, as Batman preferred to work alone in the movie. Jackson’s next clip showed Gerald McCoy, a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, carrying some of his teammates’ equipment back to the locker room after practice. When asked why he was carrying the equipment, McCoy simply said you have to serve before you can lead. Jackson rephrased it as “you have to serve before you can be a leader.”

“So being a leader, there’s some responsibility there and not everyone can do that,” Jackson said.

However, Jackson pointed out that although not everyone can be a leader, everyone can be an encourager.

Jackson described encouragers as the ones who found joy in their teammates success.

Jackson asked coach Wade Murphy if he had anyone on his team that would fit that description. Murphy answered he had a few in mind. Jackson then told the audience that they should be wondering if the coach was thinking about them or not.

Jackson ended his lecture with the brief reminder that failure is a part of life, but how they act after failure will define each athlete.

“Failure is growth for us,” Jackson said. “We don’t wanna lose, we’re competing every day, but you’re gonna fail. So if you’re gonna get bad body language every time you fail, no good. Failure’s growth, it’s gonna happen. Just keep getting better.”

Contact Hunter Herbaugh at