This week’s post is geared towards upperclassmen in high school or college. Coaching is about impacting and influencing as many lives as possible. Hopefully this post will help some student-athlete become a better a better leader and leave a lasting a legacy in their program. To me a leaving a legacy is creating and maintaining a standard of excellence that is passed on to younger players. We’re going to discuss three ways to leave a leadership legacy.
The number one thing a player must understand about being a leader is that it requires you to be a servant leader. This means you should look first to serve your teammates. Good leaders have to be good servants first and foremost. John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” There are a lot of different ways to teach players how to do this and there are different opinions out there on getting water, setting up fields, and getting equipment. In high school, I am in favor of a system where each grade level is responsible for water, set-up, takedown, and equipment. My high school football team used a system like this and it created a collective sense of ownership and responsibility. The upperclassmen should be treated no differently and given no special privileges over the underclassmen. In order to truly have a united team culture within a program, everyone should always be ready to serve. If you’re an upperclassmen or team leader, seek to serve your teammates first before yourself and you’ll receive your peers’ upmost respect. There is a great quote from Charlie Brown that says, “Few people are successful unless other people want them to be.” I love this quote because it couldn’t be more true. The only way to get people to want you to be successful is to be a servant leader for them. This goes against what much of the mass media presents to our young adults, but it’s the cornerstone to leaving a leadership legacy in a program.
Secondly, team leaders must have initiative. Without initiative, leaders are just people plugged into a position, title, or role. Initiative requires action. Leaders should always ask themselves this question: “If not me, then who?” If you see paper, plastic cups, or trash lying on the ground, don’t say, “that’s not my job.” A leader takes initiative and picks it up and puts it away. If a teammate is doing something wrong in a drill or is about to make a bad decision off the court, a leader is not afraid to step in to teach the right way to execute the drill or give sound advice to make a better decision. If a program is truly going to be great, leadership cannot always come from the coaches. The best and most successful programs in the country have leaders who take initiative on and off the court.
Lastly, team leaders must provide encouragement. Encouragement takes people to another level. Leadership is not about yelling at teammates for doing something wrong, especially underclassmen. Servant leaders encourage those around them to give it their best and acknowledge their efforts when they do so. People who feel great about themselves produce better results, so leaders need to build teammates up. A great program has a culture that is positive and uplifting. If you acknowledge the success of your teammates, your status a their leader is only enhanced. Athletes thrive off of encouragement. It’s great when your coaches give it, but there is unmatched electricity when the whole team led by the upperclassmen provides the loudest praise. The best practices I’ve been a part of in football and basketball have been when the players are vocal and encouraging each other. The teams that encourage each other the most are the most successful. Always remember, “Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.”
Your goal as a player should be to make an impact and leave a legacy. People will forget the stats and team records, but what’s most important is the culture that you help produce and that it’s carried on. By following these three guidelines you will create a positive team culture through your actions, not your words. Actions always carry more weight than words. If you can come back five years after you graduate and the program still has the same servant-focused, industrious, and encouraging environment it had when you played, you’ve left your legacy as a leader.
Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!