Sports leadership may be more important than ever, especially in these times where we see athletes regularly getting in trouble with issues pertaining to integrity, rule breaking, and sometimes even crimes. Social media has made it very easy to find these negative stories, making it that much more important for coaches and parents to work diligently to help provide role modeling and pro-social behaviors to balance out all the problems kids see. While we expect and assume student athletes to be role models, the question remains whether we are actually doing enough to help kids embrace this role, as well as provide the instruction and scaffolding for them to grow as athletes — and people.
When it comes to leadership, there are as many different definitions and interpretations as there are types of leaders. Leadership can be defined by what we do, what we don’t do, how we carry ourselves, or the success we have guiding others (or all of the above). The point is there isn’t one specific way to interpret leadership, but what we do know is that in order to be a successful leader you must do leadership. What this means is leadership isn’t just a thought or idea, it’s action – like making the effort to help a teammate who is struggling, or being proactive and creating an athletic department fundraiser.
We expect our student athletes to be role models and leaders, yet we often forget that simply telling kids this is not enough. In addition to role modeling leadership ourselves, we must remind kids of the visibility they have as athletes, as well as the consequences (good and bad) that come with their actions. We also must encourage kids to take calculated risks, as successful leaders are often proactive and don’t always wait till the last minute to act. We need to remind kids that leadership is displayed in small ways just as much as in big ways — what I mean by this is that it’s just as important for a kid to lend a hand to a teammate dealing with depression as it is to start a community volunteer effort to help the homeless.
A few additional thoughts on leadership include:
- Student athletes should be reminded that they are always being watched, even when they do not think so. Since so many student athletes wear school jackets, hats, and other sports gear, it’s very easy for people to see what they do in public and immediately recognize them as student athletes.
- Student athletes can have a tremendous impact on not only their team, but their school, and even community at-large. The visibility and recognition they receive can serve as a catalyst for positive future growth and change.
- Student athletes need to remember that the consequences they face for poor decisions may be much greater than that for non-athletes. Losing playing time, eligibility, or possibly being thrown off a team altogether are all real possibilities, depending on the crime.
- Student athletes can be taught leadership through so many different ways – learning how to empower teammates, make positive choices, help kids who are struggling, or simply serve as a liaison between coaches and fellow student athletes are all examples of positive sports leadership.
If you are interested in learning more about sports leadership, including ways that you can help teach student athletes about being more effective leaders, check out My Game My Life sport education curriculum, including the My Game My Life DVD sold only at Advanced Human Performance Systems.