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What does Culture mean to you? March 26, 2014

How would you define culture? 

Going back a few years I was on the Board of a local WAFL football club (it’s the club and code that Buddy Franklin comes from).  At that time we were going through a significant strategic planning process.  Unfortunately the “hand we were holding” wasn’t flash.  The League team had not played in finals for near on 20 years, we were second last on the ladder, we had a declining membership and financially, well, let’s just say we were operating on the smell of an oily rag.  In summary we were so desperate for success that we were literally eating the paint off the club walls.

Our head coach (a knowledgeable ex-Collingwood player) enlightened us with words of wisdom to the effect of “the club has all of the ingredients for success already in place….the only major thing holding us back is our culture”.

I don’t know if you’ve ever Googled the word culture, but if you did, you’d come across descriptive words like intellectual activity, artistic awareness, education, learning, cultivation, enlightenment, discernment, discrimination, good taste, refinement, polish; and sentences like the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. 

With all of that in mind, I often ponder about what I’m doing as a responsible parent and how my “intellectual activities” may influence the cultural development of my family.  Obviously I’m a huge believer in the philosophy that how we treat our animals and how we respect our heritage and other people (especially elders or the unwell) is a clear insight into our personality and culture.  I assume that most of our kids’ culture will be heavily shaped by what they learn at home and at school, by mixing with their mates in the playground and the local sporting club, what they see on TV or at the movies, what they Google on their tablets, what they see when they go overseas and what their parents tell them about what they do at work.  But outside of these things, what else will have an influence?  Because at the end of the day, culture plays a huge role in how we go about our everyday work and play.  

Casting my mind back over the past year or so, I’ve tried to recall some of the behaviours or things (let’s say intellectual activity) that I have done with my family that may have had either a beneficial or unhelpful influence on their cultural development. The things that come to mind are:

  • The Arts – we attended an Arts Festival Event – a one-man play.  It was really different – I absolutely loved it but I’m not so sure my daughter felt the same!  As one of the critics described, “he launches into his tale, seasoning it liberally with sly anachronisms. He pauses and breaks and backtracks, his voice rising and falling, his words swooping from nervous jangle to indolent lilt and back again”… if that doesn’t assist with developing culture , nothing will!
  • Sporting events – some people would argue that sport isn’t culture.  I disagree - it has led to the development of revered sites and traditions; and its tribalism, drama and conflict all combine to tell a compelling story.
    • AFL football - a display of passionate disdain and zealous rivalry between the clubs…..but also a high level of respect and admiration for champions and displays of courage, no matter who they play for plus a template for providing verbal character references to “maggots” and “the other mob”.  I also marvel at the Aussie sense of humour.  Some of my family - the ones that do go to church -  are amused by the chap who sits near us and wears a t-shirt which says words to the effect of “thank goodness for sin, otherwise Jesus would have died for nothing.”;
    • A-League soccer - an insight into the unique fanaticism of passionate European followers and the art of group singing and chanting, eg. “I’m blind and deaf and want to be a ref”, “you’ll never walk alone”;
    • Basketball - a glimpse of the Yankee sporting culture, with plenty of razzamatazz, yapping, chanting, high fives, chest to chest slapping and time outs;
    • Rugby Union - an insight into South African and New Zealand sporting culture and men built like ramming rods that keep running over the top of other ramming rods, but then stopping every 3 or 4 minutes to have a group gathering and body snuggle.
  • Entertainment – we’ve attended:
    • Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Pink, Alicia Keys, Suzie Quatro.  All of these American artists put on an extremely high level of professional productions and give an insight into the USA’s pride for their country.  They are the ultimate world entertainers;
    • Cavalia – a spectacular Canadian horse show. It’s reportedly the largest touring tent show in the world. For our kids it was really beautiful and stirring and fascinated them with the unique magic of horses and the wilderness. 

Now, back to that football club… took us a very, very long time to get our head around how to clearly understand and address our culture problem.  Once we clearly understood what our supporters and players wanted our club image and goals to be we implemented an action plan to achieve them.  In essence we proactively engaged and employed people across all facets of our club who had good morals and were results driven team players with a genuine passion for the club.  A sense of humour (fun with pain) and an acceptance to work with the “hand we’ve been dealt” and not consistently complain or feel restricted by the things that we didn’t have.

Over the years we managed out some high profile players, coaches, board members and management staff. We only recruited players and officials who aligned with our new culture.  We communicated more and managed expectations better with our members, supporters and other key stakeholders. 

We understood that this would take years to accomplish because brand image can mean many different things in the minds of the players, staff and officials, members, supporters, suppliers, media and other audiences.

Over the past four seasons our Reserves and Colts teams have played finals, including a grand final; and the League team now sits just outside the top four.  We hope this year will see the League team play finals for the first time in 20 years - the culmination of all of our hard work…and a bit of luck!

Cheers until our next blog.

Terry Jones
Marketing Manager  

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