“If you want a job done well, you must create the right conditions for it.”
Adi Dassler (founder of Adidas)

Culture is the DNA of an organization, and it’s the core of my company, Munciana. It is who we are in everything we do and how we do it. Our culture was created in 1974 by Dr. Don Shondell when he started Munciana Volleyball, and it’s in the club’s DNA, passed along through all of the teachers and coaches who continued to lead the club through today.

Good culture is polarizing. It draws in those that align with your culture and repels those that don’t. Your culture may not be for everyone. Our culture is a training time unit, not a playing time unit. Our members “pay to train,” they don’t pay to play, and they know that going in. It’s something that many say, but we live.

To establish culture from the top-down, leaders go first. There is no food tester in top down culture. The Director, the leader, goes first and exemplifies the culture of the club. You put action to your words and must lead by example. When people think of your club, what do you want them to say? The answer should be how you, the leader, are as well.


How do you build the culture that you want?  I want to be in this great lab of becoming the best competitors, teammates and volleyball players you can possibly be. I want to train athletes to become the best version of themselves they can possibly be. I stay process oriented, and do not emphasize championships.

Leverage your team leaders.
Read the book “Legacy” about the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Club, the world’s most successful sports franchise, undefeated in over 75% of their international matches over the last 100 years. What is the secret to their success? Culture.  A core tenet of their team and success is called “Pass the Ball,” meaning leaders create leaders. Everyone feels like a leader, and the buy-in from the members on the team is huge. It starts at the top, with leveraging your team leaders to make each other better.  It’s a form of servant leadership that can be described as “I give to you and do for you so you can rise up and be better.”

Empower people to excel.
People will rise and fall with your consistency and expectation, so be sure to set a positive tone. For me, my expectation is something will be done top notch, to the best of your human effort. I know I’m extremely demanding and will wear people out because my expectations are high and I demand the highest level of work ethic. That’s all I know. It was how I was raised. And I empower people to have those same expectations.

Culture is somewhat of a spiritual event, teaching everyone to believe in something bigger than themselves. It takes one person to lead and develop the top down culture for the group. And then you need buy-in from everyone in the club.

Challenge everyone to keep support staff (especially role players) from falling through the cracks.
As a club director, you need every team to be coached with the same mindset. Everyone in your club should feel important and should be on board with your club’s culture, whether they play for the 12-6 team or the 18-1 team. You can have different teams when it comes to talent, but each team needs to be treated the same as far as training and culture.  The moment your 13-4s are treated differently than the 13-1s team is the moment their work ethic and buy-in will change.

Make sure every coach knows your club’s culture and they know how important they are to the culture. Challenge your staff to get better every day and track their progress.

Set the Expectations.
Communicate your expectations to everyone in the organization. We have all been training for this magical moment. Embrace the chance. I personally want every player to feel like they open a gift each and every time they have the opportunity to train in our gym. I expect that every coach in the club will bring their best every single day.

“TRUE G.R.I.T” sums up our culture.
I interviewed the leaders in our club who have been at Munciana a long time. I asked 12 leaders and coaches in our club and asked them what the top four things our club represents, and the answers were all similar. I came up with G.R.I.T to represent our culture.

a. Gratitude: Every single one of us referenced gratitude. We are always grateful daily for our history, but more importantly, we reflect on and strive to grow it. We embrace our history as the longest running club in the country, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to extend it. The pandemic really emphasized this for me, not knowing if we would ever have the opportunity to do what we love again in the same manner.

b. Relentless: We embrace and promote the art of competition and the pursuit of it. We compete against perfection not the scoreboard. I think it’s one of the things that has led to the longevity of our club.  My advice is don’t get caught up in chasing scoreboards, they are the biggest liars of a lifetime. Compete in ALL you do and be relentless in the pursuit of process. My biggest fear as a coach is that we play poorly and win. It’s about learning how to play the game the best way we can play. Winning in the least of my concerns, process is the most of my concerns.

c. Instruct: We grow by teaching each other up. Giving feedback in “real time” or soon after helps growth and development. At one time, every single Lead Coach at Munciana was a school teacher. Part of our core and our culture is teaching, so giving feedback in real time came naturally to us, and is still a big piece of our club’s culture.

d. Trash: We all take out the trash. If you’re going to have a top-down culture, leadership by example is key. What do your coaches and athletes see? What do you exemplify with your actions? Never be too big to take on a dirty job that needs to be done.

Examine what makes your culture different. Examine what your culture needs and what you want it to be. You get what you ask for; you have to live it every single day and put concentrated effort into making it what you want.

Listen to Mike’s 30 minute presentation on Top Down Culture here.

About the Author

Mike Lingenfelter is the Co-Director of Munciana and the President of the JVA Board of Directors. As Co-Director/Owner of Munciana Volleyball Club, Lingenfelter has coached for 15+ years. He has six national championships and his Munciana Samurai teams have placed in the top 3 (JVA/AAU/USA) in the nation every year of its existence (2004). Mike is one of two coaches to ever reach an 18 Open Championship match in all three of the major volleyball organizations (JVA, AAU/USAV).

In the high school arena he led Wapahani High School to three state championships and, has been awarded State Coach of the Year three times. At the collegiate level, Lingenfelter was a 3-time Conference USA/Metro Conference Coach of the Year and amassed over 200 Victories. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Don Shondell Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the AVCA 18’s Coach of the Year.