Be a Sports Leader!

posted on: December 23, 2014
author: Brian Lomax


Leadership is an important quality for many of us whether we are players, captains, coaches or managers. We want to be good leaders. But what does a good leader do? Is it all about winning or is there more to it than that?

If you’re an aspiring leader, think about taking your leadership skills to a level that transcends just winning. Winning in itself doesn’t imply that you did it the right way. However, if you’re a great leader – a transformational leader – not only will you be successful, but you’ll be remembered for making those around you better. That sounds like a pretty cool legacy to me. What do you think?

So do you want to be a transformational leader? Here are 4 things to add to your leadership toolbox.

Always do the right thing

As a leader, you have to model the behavior you wish to see in others. In a sports context, that means always giving your best effort, being fully focused and engaged in practice and in games, putting the team ahead of yourself, being respectful, and displaying great sportsmanship in all situations. I’m sure you can come up with a few more items to add to this list. The key is to model that behavior, as your actions will speak louder than your words.

Inspire others

When you communicate with your teammates or players, share the vision of what your team can be and what it can accomplish if everyone does the necessary work. Make that vision inspiring and appealing to all. Praise others for their hard work, commitment, dedication, and stay away from telling people how talented they are without connecting it to effort. Strive to make those around you better by inspiring them with a grand vision.

Engage on an intellectual level

When you’re away from practice or competition, do you talk about your sport? You should. I’m not saying that you should never talk about anything else, but you want to engage your teammates and players in intellectual discussions on your sport so that collectively, you can all raise your sport IQ. Smarter teams win. That means understanding strategy, tactics, the tendencies of opponents, technical skills, the history of the game, etc. Talk about this stuff on a regular basis. That’s what great leaders and teams do.

Show them you care

Get to know all of your teammates and players, and learn about what is important in their lives. We don’t want to view them as simply an ends to a means (i.e., I just need you so we can win this game). There will be times when our teammates are struggling outside of sport, and it’s in those moments that we can reach out and offer assistance to them. Help them celebrate their personal triumphs. Let them know that being on the team goes beyond just performing on the court or on the field. You care about them as human beings and you want them to be successful in all things that are important in their lives.

Certainly, there are coaches who win and don’t do these 4 things or place much importance on them. The media and the history books may remember them for their success, but their players will most likely look back on them in a different way. They’ll note that the relationship was distant or empty, and if they learned anything about human relations in the process, it was more on the side of what not to do. Contrast that with the praise that players heap on former UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. His teams were successful because he made his players better men, and through that process, they learned how to reach their potential as a team.

As an athlete who aspires to leadership, you can do the same 4 things noted above. And by doing so, you’ll develop lifelong relationships that will be mutually enriching. A great example of how to conduct yourself as a captain while playing and after your career is over is Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens. Beliveau passed away a couple of weeks ago and you can see many of the tributes to him on YouTube extolling his leadership skills on and off the ice. He was a revered figure in a city and province obsessed with hockey not only for what he achieved on the ice, but perhaps more importantly, for the man he was off the ice.

Wooden and Beliveau are good examples of transformational leaders, and there are many more out there. Don’t be afraid to research those in your sport and use them as a role models. Who are some of your favorite leaders in sports and why?

photo credit: Frontierofficial via photopin cc

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

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