Transforming a club’s culture is rewarding, well worth the effort. But first, we need to understand that nothing magical occurs here. Every part of a club’s operation has to come under the spotlight. From its mission statement, canteen practice, volunteer policy, to its sanctions in place for breaches of code of conduct.

Tinkering at the edges is no answer. Changing words here and there in some club documents just won’t cut it.

Strong foundations are the key. We’re talking real intent, real purpose, real coverage, real change. Everyone has to be involved in this journey; from canteen volunteer to the president. A respectful culture is the sum of all club parts and people.

  • Know your club's values

    Your values are the ideas and behaviours that you want to live your life by. They are not luxury touches only for the good times. Your mission statement reflects your club’s values. If you’re intent on building a club which is respectful, safe, fair, fun and successful, spell these out as key values, then focus on translating them into everyday actions around the club.

    They’re not something just to be listed, but lived and practiced everyday. When a club momentarily loses its way, it’s the clarity of the club’s values that help bring it back on course.

    Establishing your club’s values is your opportunity to elaborate on the club’s mission.

    Listing heaps of values won’t help. It’s about getting to the heart of your practice. If you haven’t already, check out your club’s mission statement and see what values are listed or inferred. Are these the best reflection of what your club stands for? If not, it’s time to meet with the committee to review the club values.

    Every club has a set of values listed around the club or on its website. Unfortunately, there is a great discrepancy between clubs as to how they action their values. It is not uncommon to discover that the members of some clubs are completely unaware of their club values. In other clubs they may know of them, but fail to enact them.

    The hallmark of clubs with a recognisable culture of respect is their capacity to put their values into action and explicitly demonstrate the actions that align with their values. People with key roles, model the values in their work around the club. For example, coaches demonstrate the club values through their collaborative interactions with parents and players, and players engage in positive on and off-field behaviours that also reflect club values. What clubs need is a process to assist them to recognise and enact their values.

  • Clarify your club's mission

    When we talk about a club’s ‘mission’ we’re talking about capturing the very essence of your club – its purpose, driving values and aspirations.

    A mission statement is meaningless if it is a hollow collection of nice words and phrases. A clear, strong mission statement is a powerful guiding force – especially when it is put into practice. A club aspiring to be a place of deep respect, safety and fairness has to make sure this is captured clearly and persuasively in its Mission Statement.

    Everyone in your club needs to know and understand the club’s values, ambition and common purpose if they’re going to put these values into practice. 

    A Club Respect Mission Statement is:

        • explicit in its references to fairness, respect, equality and safety
        • short, relevant, inspiring and motivating
        • crafted and agreed upon by all members
        • visible to all at any time
        • practised by everyone, every day.
        • regularly referred to, reviewed and updated.


    A missed-opportunity Mission Statement is:

        • one that remains silent on respect, fairness and safety
        • passive, hollow and generalised
        • made for the sake of having one
        • not visible to everyone
        • not seen as the central business to the club, rarely mentioned or referred to.

    Here are 2 well-articulated mission statements, from a local and an elite club, that you might like to use as a starting point:


  • Create an authentic Mission Statement

    Your club’s mission sets the ambition and expectation for all members. So, it should reflect the views of all of your members. Everyone should have the opportunity to contribute to its development and amendment.

    This democratic process, along with a club-wide zero tolerance for abusive and discriminatory behaviours at the Mission Statement’s core, is putting your club’s strongest foot forward. 

    Step 1 – Listen to your people

    Engage people in developing an authentic statement about your club’s intent and purpose by asking them what the club means to them. Things like:

        • What attracted you to our club?
        • What is unique about our club?
        • What do you think our club stands for?
        • How would you describe it in a few words?
        • What are the strengths of our club?
        • Where do you think it could improve?
        • What are your concerns about the club?


    Step 2 – Collate the common elements

    Gather people’s feedback and group their responses into a set of common elements.


    Step 3 – Develop some key statements using the feedback

    From those grouped responses, try to work the key elements into some statements. For example:

        • “Our mission is to provide a safe, welcoming club where people enjoy a sense of belonging.”
        • “We promote success, enjoyment and well-being of all our members.”
        • “We welcome diversity.”
        • “We treat everyone equally and have a zero-tolerance for violence or abuse.”


    Step 4 – Make sure people’s feedback is accurately captured.

    Take your summary and key statements back to people to check whether they think this is a good reflection of their input.


    Step 5 – Link your club mission to everything you do

    It’s your bedrock. Refer to it regularly, display it clearly and legibly around your club, and live it every day.


    Step 6 – Be proud of it!

    It’s not a wall decoration, but a constant reminder for you and others, of the kind of people you are and what you strive for, individually and together, in the club and the outside world.

    Going through this process to develop it democratically with others in the club makes it the most powerful it can be; people will protect it’s practice if they see themselves in it.


    Step 7 – Display it!

    Flaunt it… make it visible and accessible right across the board.

        • Club rooms
        • Change rooms
        • The canteen
        • Court side/field side/pool side
        • On the club’s external signage
        • On the club’s website and social media


    Step 8 – Celebrate!

    People’s actions that positively reflect the club mission should be celebrated wherever possible. Acknowledging people for their positive contributions is also helping to embed the kind of culture you’ve written about in your Mission Statement. Award systems are a great way of creating these opportunities.


    Step 9 – Defend it!

    Use your club’s Mission Statement to help deal with negative behaviour:

        • reference your Mission Statement when member behaviour is out of line with your club’s values
        • use your Mission Statement to explain to someone why their behaviour isn’t acceptable at your club
        • consistently and fairly enforce consequences for breaches of code of conduct.


    Step 10 – Revise it!

    Over time, your club’s mission and values will change as your club evolves. Revisit them regularly (at least every 2 years) to ensure your club remains relevant and dynamic.

  • Create a powerful Code of Conduct

    Everyone connected to a club influences the culture of that club – for good or for bad. There are often Codes of Conduct that apply generally to a sport. These are usually detailed, well-developed statements which emphasise good behaviour, accountabilities and an expectation of playing and operating in the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship.

    But these aren’t necessarily front and centre of club operations. They might be sitting in a folder somewhere, often not communicated effectively to new players, supporters and parents. Even if a Code of Conduct is upfront and visible in a club, there can be a sense around the club that they are just nice words, really.

    It may look as though there are no sanctions in place. In situations like this, the question of a sport’s Code of Conduct only takes on relevance and importance when things go pear-shaped and a crisis hits the club.

    The reality is that belonging to a club is actually a matter of contract. If you pay fees and are a member, the Code of Conduct is one of the terms of the contract. So, it is not so much about signing on to a Code of Conduct, but rather knowing that it exists and accepting that you are accountable, under this Code, for your actions in and around the club.

    A powerful Code of Conduct is a critical ingredient in a club’s drive to become a place of respect, fun, fairness, safety and success. If your club wants to drive a strong respect agenda, with clear expectations of positive behaviours across the club, it has to demonstrate that it means business.

    Sanctions need to be identified by your club and, where appropriate, applied fairly and consistently. As a general rule, people want to see integrity in operation. They feel let down and disappointed if they see gaps between stated behaviours and realities. Proper and fair enactment its own Code of Conduct results in loyalty, regard and true confidence in and around the club. We expect conduct that:

        • it is full of respect for all people
        • guarantees people’s safety at all times
        • promotes non-violence
        • achieves equal access and opportunities
        • promotes fun and enjoyment
        • meets our club’s success criteria
        • accepts responsibility for individuals’ actions
        • role models positive behaviour at every turn

    Step 1 – Capture essential conduct

    You need to decide and capture what the essential behaviour is required of people in and around your club.


    Step 2 – Update Code of Conduct

    Incorporate these essentials into your club’s Code of Conduct. This might mean reviewing an existing Code of Conduct or starting afresh.

    There are good examples of how clubs have already covered this base – here’s one we think fits the bill. Otherwise, start by checking with your state sport association.


    Step 3 – Authority

    Your Code of Conduct needs to carry authority and be enforceable if it’s going to hold any weight. Formally adopt it as part of the club’s overall policies and governance.


    Step 4 – Sanctions

    Your club’s Code of Conduct is likely to positively influence the behaviour of people when your club identifies the sanctions which will be applied consistently and fairly when there are clear breaches of the Code.

    Seek guidance from third parties such as your state sport association, inputting sanctions and disciplinary processes in place.


    Step 5 – Promote

    Once such a Code of Conduct is adopted, along with sanctions and enforceable processes in place, the final step is to actively promote it and the sanctions your club has identified for each offence (alcohol abuse, on-field violence, parent abusive behaviour, club officials bullying or sexual harassment).

    Visiting supporters will need to be dealt with differently because they are not subject to the contract with the club. You need to consistently message the power of your code of conduct that your club means business.

    Be sure the code of conduct, including the sanctions and disciplinary processes, are visible around the club. It carries the power of a ‘third party’ and makes it easier and less confrontational to be able to point out when particular behaviour, attitude or language doesn’t sit within the club’s Code.


    Step 6 – Adoption

    The essence or core of the Code should have a special status in the eyes of its beholders. You could make an attractive, laminated pocket-sized version which is given to all office bearers, volunteers, parents and players when they join, as a reminder that they form part of the contract.

    Make it obvious to your supporter base too. Although some may not be formal members or have signed up to the Code, make it known that there’s an explicit expectation that they respect and model the standards of behaviour that have been set by those who have.