Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leadership and Other “Intangibles”

   Coaches evaluate players both on their observable traits (athleticism, sports skills, body type) and less-obvious ones. This latter category includes several of the qualities discussed elsewhere on this blog (attitude, willingness to learn and prepare, and attention to detail).

Even less apparent are those special qualities that only a few players on a team typically possess—the ability to perform at a high level in pressure situations (a “clutch” player), a “never give up” mind-set (a player with “heart”), and the over-arching quality of leadership. Players who demonstrate these qualities not only contribute to their team’s success by their own play, but also by the way in which they affect their teammate’s play. Their character inspires others to reach higher and, in turn, give their best effort.

Let's take a closer look at leadership and related character qualities.

Leadership by Example

Leadership comes in various forms and is earned—by your play, the quality of your character, or more often by both. You can lead simply by the example you set.

If you play at a high level, and within the framework of team play, you will gain the respect of your teammate. You don’t need to give “rah-rah” speeches. Your teammates will naturally look to you to lead them in difficult circumstances. And when you do talk, others will listen.

Coaches Love Confident Players

Self-confidence is always present in players who lead by example. They believe in themselves and their abilities. Coaches love players who are confident—but only if the confidence is well-placed.

Several years ago, while I was coaching a team in a middle school basketball game, the official called a technical foul on our opponent. As I was pointing to one of my better ninth graders to take the shots, another boy, only in seventh grade, came over to me and said, “Coach, if you let me shoot, I’ll make both of them.” He was a good young player, but I was more impressed with his confidence and bold prediction. I decided to let him take the technical free throws. He went to the line and calmly sank the first shot, and then the second. But what happened next was even better. He walked by me, gave me a big smile, and without saying a word returned to the court. I was impressed with this boy’s quiet self-confidence. How could any coach not be?

Going Beyond "I"

Leadership is also a byproduct of a noble character. If despite a lack of outstanding ability, you give your best effort, are willing to sacrifice your individual accomplishments when necessary for the team’s benefit, and otherwise demonstrate admirable character traits such as courage and honesty, your teammates will follow your lead.

TIP: Although you may not possess charisma or the ability to lead by athletic example, you can still show leadership in smaller ways. How do you react when your team is struggling? Do you go “quietly into the night” or do you challenge yourself and your teammates to be better? (“We’re better than this—let’s go!”)

Obviously, coaches would prefer all of their players to have outstanding talent, confidence, character, and the ability to lead others when needed. But the reality is that most players are flawed. Team roles need to be filled. You may find, despite your lack of outstanding athleticism, that your abilities are sufficient to play an important role on your team. And in doing so, you may also find that you possess leadership skills that are highly valued by your coach.

Copyright © 2013 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child

($8.95; Kindle: $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Jodi Murphy said...

Coaches also love players that build up the confidence of their teammates. A good leader knows that everyone has a role to play and instead of berating someone for slowing the rest of the team down or missing a play, a great leader will work to bolster that player and keep them motivated.

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