Analyzing Winning Teams: Does Team Culture Really Matters?

In the midst of March Madness 2023, it is worth wondering how you can create a winning team. Aside from crafty drafts, tactical nous, and the best coach, there are other factors that matter. While statistics can be beneficial to give a sense of performance, they can mask overall success. That’s where a team’s culture comes into play as everyone can buy into its customs, ideas, and social behavior to create something bigger.

What Is Team Culture?

Team culture, also known as team chemistry, is something that is built on over time. It will fail to show up on a box score or statistics sheet yet has a huge impact on how successful a team can be year-on-year. Once teammates understand and appreciate how each of them plays, and their positioning on the court, a team can become more than the sum of its parts. Team culture can be undervalued, in the sense that it becomes difficult to fathom, yet the most successful teams tend to know how important it is. 

March Madness can be an ideal time to consider building a team culture, or improving one, as it provides something of a reset button. The start of the National Collegiate Athletic Association college basketball tournaments heralds a new beginning. Though what has gone before should not be ignored as a team culture can show its worth before then, especially when an addition proves disruptive. 

Coaches tend to know where relationships and bonds can be built on the court so keeping those players together is vital. Players and teams will be built on those aspects that go unseen but matter in the long run. The goodwill between players, knowing where they will be on the court without having to look, and a genuine desire to win. Once players share the same goal and strive to reach it then a franchise can excel to a championship run. 

The Main Players In Team Culture

There are no age restrictions for building a team culture though it helps if the players have been together for years. Ideally, the leading players represent a mix, not just of positions but experience and personality. There can be a tandem of best friends to dictate play on the court and in the changing room. One can dictate play through their outstanding skill while another provides the tactical knowledge to know where to be and drive a team forward. 

The coach can also set the tone for the team culture and that can go beyond their tactical knowledge. Sure, getting players to be in the right positions is important yet they can ensure that players buy into a project. From identifying key drafts to looking after the bond between players and making sure that it all ties in together.

New players are drafted in and speculation can be rife about the effect that will have on the existing team and its culture. When Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors in 2016, hopes were high for the famed ‘Hampton Five’ yet it did disrupt the already-existing team culture. Steph Curry was known as that team’s heartbeat and the addition of Durant did work, for a time. Yet as Curry allowed Durant to take the focus, the team’s historic run came to an end.

How A Team Culture Works

Players come and go but the key to building a team culture is making sure that the belief remains and the talent pool remains high. When the best player for a team leaves it can create a void yet success is built on the team so as long as a replacement is sought that buys into the culture then performance should remain high. However, the process can take years as a well-formed team with a solid culture may still triumph over a drafted-together super team.

Even adding great players can disrupt a team’s culture. Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal built a winning formula at Miami Heat which was enhanced by the arrival of LeBron James in 2010 and should have cemented it. It can take a full year of playing and training with players to create a winning team. Time is key as the Dallas Mavericks triumphed in that first year in a team led by Dirk Nowitzki, arguably because they had been building their team culture for over a decade. 

A winning team is typically more than just a collection of players who train together and then step out onto the court. These are players that live and breathe the values of their team culture and create a way of playing that works for them. A nous of almost-telepathic understanding that creates something more than a team. From a tenacious, unrelenting team defense to an offense that looks out for each other for the benefit of the team. 


The best winning teams tend to have it all together with a set of playing that triumphs over and over again. That may be because they have superior players on the court yet there will be something intangible there too. That’s the team culture that has a profound effect on how players want to play for each other and how well they play together. Once these players form an understanding and unbreakable bond, they can be tough to stop.

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