That Ain’t It!

How a simple mantra reinforces culture…

Throughout the nearly two years I’ve been sharing thoughts on this blog, and for more than 30 as both a player and a coach, I’ve learned and emphasized the importance of “culture” as a core component of success. Culture will develop one way or another. As a head coach, part of the leadership responsibility is to ensure the development of the culture you want your team to emulate.

Common vision, values, purpose, and goals unite teams and build cohesion. Those attributes are underpinned by character and personal example. Personal example is often reinforced by words; words that sometimes take on “mantra’ like status. I was told by a friend who is both a leadership expert and a US Marine Corps General, “When you’re just about tired of saying it, they’re just starting to hear it.”

We have established a culture at St Johnsbury Academy of how we do things as Hilltopper Football Players.  You’ve heard me say (or read here previously) “Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.” There is a very specific way we do everything whether it is football related (blocking, tackling, running, catching) or personal conduct on and off the field.  When any players’ action fails to uphold our performance standards, I often say the phrase, “that ain’t it.”  Apparently, it has been picked up by our students as noted in the email below from our defensive coordinator, John Lovett, who is also a history teacher and dorm proctor at the Academy.

FYI, the phrase “that ain’t it” has permeated the culture of the school. Three times today alone, and many other times before I have heard students say this about behaviors or ideas that are not what we are looking for. Your words are famous! Most of these students have no relation to the football program and still understand the idea of meeting a standard of thought and behavior.

Observable behaviors or actions that do not meet expectations are now being corrected with a simple phrase, “that ain’t it.” It’s become our way of reinforcing “do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason,” and the adoption of the phrase and its use by students other than our players is a great sign of the positive effects of our team on campus-wide culture. How do you reinforce culture in your team, family, partnership, or organization? What are the signs your efforts to develop culture are beginning to stick?

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!


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