Leadership skills are becoming more important in the sports curriculum. Coaches, administrators, parents and even spectators have a responsibility in the development of leadership attitudes and skills.
Anyone who has played on a team knows the leadership of that team came from within. Successful, experienced coaches know how to identify leadership potential. They need look no further than at their past and present teams.
Team captains should have more ability than just leading from the front. Real leadership is found somewhere in the pack. It’s easy to lead, or follow, when the team is in front.
Geese honk at their leader to voice encouragement and give notice they are following with confidence. Honking from behind should be voices of confidence. We all can use the sense of a goose. Sooner or later honking geese take their turn out front.
Today, leading from behind takes courage. Every team needs each member to lead at some time or another. The best leaders don’t need to lead.
Ask any coach what are the leadership characteristics desired on his or her team and they will list about as many as they have team members. However, there are about six or eight that will be on all lists, regardless of the sport. Team family is no exception.
Good leaders are NOT usually the glad-handers, most assertive or extroverts. Players who become leaders are often those we least expect. Predicting which athletes will be successful leaders depends upon the opportunities to do so. Leaders are people who rise to an occasion and persist until they succeed.
Research and experience have identified some traits that help identify potential leaders. For the benefit of sportsmanship, training should start now. Actually, yesterday.
Spotting potential leaders is relatively easy if we know what to look for. Otherwise the experiences of leadership go to those who can get up before a group and speak effortlessly or are noticeably assertive. They are often called natural leaders.
Remember those opportunities when you wanted to lead that disappeared because you weren’t aggressive? Or those hidden talents not yet tested? Or fear of failure? Here are characteristics coaches say reveal potential leadership among participants in athletics:
Action-oriented doers who display initiative. They want to see action started so they can see results.
Reflective minds that study improvements and don’t jump at the easy fix.
Those who are flexible in actions, attitudes and ideas. They risk to get the job done properly.
Those who anticipate problems and opportunities. They stay with a problem until it is solved.
Those with a positive and practical outlook. They do the things a leader is supposed to do, not what others want them to do.
Those who self-evaluate, aim at self-improvement and look objectively at their strengths.
Those who are enthusiastic and excited about achievement and about helping others.
Players on teams say their leadership comes from rules, their coaches, athletic directors, referees, community and, yes, parents. They expect someone else will set the standard. Kids don’t learn to play follow-the-leader unless they practice it. Returning leadership to players during games, at home and on the road, produces a greater chance of building the leaders we all need. Parents can do that
Sooner or later, sportsmanship – that positive signature of amateur athletics that coaches strive to protect – needs be returned to the athletes. Coaches can do that.
You and me? We can do that.
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