Brandon's Blog: Culture Wins
Jenny Ryan

Nov. 5, 2012

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page,, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

Championship teams find a way to transform themselves into winners. No doubt, there needs to be talent, but there also needs to be a winning culture. Cultures are created outside individual abilities. In sports, the creation of a culture starts by the way the team prepares in practice. It is impacted by the way the team interacts with one another. It is solidified by the way the team conducts itself whether in competition or in the community, as well as the positive attitude every member of the team carries with him at all times -- during moments when things are going well and during those times when it would be easy to complain or blame.

This past week, our men's and women's basketball teams took the court for the first time this season in competition against another team. Some might say they were only exhibition games as both the men and women made their first wins look easy. However, they were more than just exhibition games; they were another step in building a championship culture.

For the men's team, the game presented an opportunity to allow the freshmen to run out of that tunnel at Crisler Center and represent the Maize and Blue for the first time. And it was their first opportunity to join the upperclassmen and feel the heat of competition and hear the roar of the Michigan faithful in attendance.

For the women, their exhibition game allowed this senior-laden team an opportunity to display its skills within a new system under their new coach. Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is working extremely hard to introduce a style of basketball for our players to learn and our fans to enjoy.

For both teams and their coaching staffs, these exhibition games were an opportunity to further develop each team's culture for the upcoming season.

The Michigan men's basketball team is going into the regular season highly rated. The upperclassmen are going to need to show the leadership exhibited by last year's co-captains, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. Coach John Beilein knows strong on- and off-court leadership is going to be key for this team's success. He and his staff are working hard to ensure that everyone is on board for what is required to achieve championship results in the upcoming season. This team has plenty of young talent, and it needs to mesh with the returnees to create a winning culture that will take them through a long, challenging Big Ten season.

Josh Bartelstein was the perfect choice as the only predetermined captain for the season to continue the chemistry of last year's Big Ten championship team. Not only did Bartelstein room with Novak during his sophomore and junior years, he also achieved one of the highest leadership scores possible in a 360-degree leadership survey our athletic department administered to our student-athletes in all of our varsity sports.

He has been described by his current roommate and teammate Jordan Morgan as a player who "embodies selflessness ... that always put the team first."

With the addition of game captains during the season, Bartelstein will help the coaching staff and his teammates continue building a program that experienced the benefits of having a championship culture in the 2011-12 season.

Our women's basketball team is also coming off one of its best seasons ever. Last season, they won 20 games for only the fourth time in the history of the program. Coach Arico is bringing this team along with an atmosphere of excitement and confidence knowing this team is poised to take this program to the next level. She understands the importance of leadership and realizes she is one of the few new faces on the team's bench. Recognizing it takes time to build a culture of championship teams, Arico knows her coaching staff and team have a lot of work ahead -- but the journey will be exciting!

This is where Jenny Ryan and Rachel Sheffer come in. While Sheffer is the 2011-12 MVP returning for her senior season, Ryan, also a senior, might be the key to the team's success this season. Ryan led the team in almost every category except scoring, and Arico is working closely with her to make Jenny's senior year special for her and for the team.

Arico isn't the only person who believes Ryan is a key to this team's success. Her teammates also see Jenny as an integral part of moving this team to the next level, as they have voted to make her this season's captain.

This season is vitally important for both Ryan and Sheffer. They are working closely with Arico and her staff to ensure that all five of the seniors on this team leave this program on a high note.

Selflessness, intensity and passion are common attributes of all championship teams. Leadership is needed at every turn to ensure these traits remain constant throughout a long season.

Exhibition games are more than just a practice game. They are an important step in the process of learning to work together, play together, and win together!

As Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit." Our opening "exhibition games" were the first of what will be an exciting season for both of our basketball programs -- and will hopefully start that "habit of winning" for our coaches, student-athletes and fans!

Good luck to Coach Arico, Coach Beilein, and all of our talented student-athletes who will play for Michigan this season on the basketball court. Go Blue!

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