We are in the middle of a popular family vacation time, and most are enjoying the good life.

During my coaching days and days as activities director, my family was limited to only one specific week in the summer to get away on a vacation retreat. At that time there was no such thing as a dead period.

There are weightlifting programs and team camps, and under new MSHSAA rules, teams are now allowed to play a summer schedule against other schools. But now this must be done over the course of 25 days. The coaches and players are ruled by mandates, dead periods and contact days. It is one of the best moves by the state for the benefit of those involved in the high school sports business.

It takes an enormous amount of year-round work to maintain a quality athletic program in any sport. But it is the summer months that allow coaches to establish which players are willing to fully commit to the program.

I was a participant in the Coaches Association Golf Tournament prior to leaving for our family vacation at Hilton Head. As the oldest player, I was amazed at the level of commitment and dedication of current young coaches. Some of these coaches have already experienced success, and some were seeking answers to the age-old question of how to build and turnaround a program.

We all went to a local watering hole following the tournament and continued to philosophize on the topic. Of course, everyone had a different solution, but my suggestion to them was to turn to a pamphlet written by Bruce E. Brown: “First Steps to Creating a Successful Team Core.”

Bruce spoke many times at our state AD conventions when I served as president. He has many useful ideas on how to build an athletic program from the bottom up. Any school district – or any business, for that matter – would be wise to consider some of his ideas in an effort to build a team environment.

Team covenants define an athletic program or team. He explains that these covenants provide a foundation and identity for a program. Every member of the team is held accountable. It is a value that can create a foundation that can be counted on. These core values show up in many different ways on teams. On some teams they are only spoken, but on the really great teams they are both spoken and practiced.

In Bruce’s work he uses ideas from former Colorado governor Dick Lamm in which he describes four stages of changing the culture of any team or organization.

1. No Talk and No Action: For teams, this is when things need to change but no one is willing to face the problems. They pretend everything is OK or hope that change will happen on its own. Good teams do not happen by accident.

2. Talk and No Action: For teams, this is worse than the first stage because it usually means that our words do not mean anything and leadership cannot be trusted to follow through. It is better for a team to not have covenants than it is to have them only be words without action.

3. Talk and Action: For teams, this means that changes are being addressed, actions can be seen, and violations have consequences.

4. No Talk, Just Action: For teams, this means that everyone understands the covenants and little or no talk is required. This IS who we are. We are HERE and you can see it.

Of course all of these ideas take a group of people at every level buying in to the program. Finally, Bruce suggests the following questions for all team members in the process of establishing team covenants:

1. What would you like to stand for?

2. What do you want your team culture to be?

3. What would you like to be able to guarantee about your team?

4. What are the “for sures”? If you come watch our team, I can guarantee this is what you will see …

5. What are your shared values?

We could go on for hours with the discussion of how to turn around athletic programs. There have been hundreds of books written and thousands of presentations on the topic. My own simple philosophy is “Are you in or are you out?”

I enjoyed my time with all the young coaches the other day, and I hope all of them find the key to each of their team covenants. Coaching can be the most rewarding profession in the world.

• The baseball season is at the All-Star break and the Royals must get Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon hot with the bats at the same time in order to make a run at a playoff berth this year. In addition, James Shields needs to throw like a real No. 1 again. It has to happen!

• My quote of the week comes from Confucius: “To see what is right and not to do it is lack of courage.”

Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net