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The backbone of any strong high school athletic program, no matter the sport, is strong leadership among the student-athletes.
The first thing that you can do to be a better leader on your team is to realize that you need to be a better leader on your team. This first step is just like the first step for Alcoholics Anonymous: the first step is to realize that you have a problem. Once you realize that you need to be a better leader, you will start to look for ways to be a better leader, and you will ask your coaches how you can be a better leader.
Secondly, consider others better than yourself. This is the antithesis in the athletic world today. Most athletes consider themselves to be the best. But the best teammates consider others to be better. What this means is that you look for ways to serve, not be served.
How are ways that you can help your teammates? What can you do to help your teammates become better players than they are now? True leaders serve others first, they don't jump to the front of the pregame meal line. True leaders are the last ones on the field; they don't leave until everything is picked up. True leaders fill water bottles when they need it, they don't throw them to the student trainers. How can you consider your teammates better than you?
The next step to becoming a better leader on your team is taking younger kids under your wing. I heard a great story from a former NFL player named J.R. Tolver, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. His first year on the team was when Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau joined the Dolphins. They were practicing on opposite fields, Tolver was a wide receiver so he was on the offensive field, and Seau was a linebacker on the defensive field. Seau called him over, and complimented him, told him that he was going to make the team, that he was a great player. "That gave me a lot of confidence," Tolver said.
Here was this Hall of Fame linebacker, one of the best to play the game, reaching out to a new rookie. You never know how powerful your words will be to that freshman or that sophomore on your team.
Being a great leader means that you pull others up, you don't let them stay where they are talent-wise. You help them get better. Not only do you help them get better with their play, but you help them get better with their mentality and focus on the team. Taking younger kids under your wing means that you show them the ropes when the coaches aren't around. Look for ways to teach, to cultivate and to encourage those "under" you.
If you commit to knowing you need to be a better leader, consider others better than you, and bring others under your wing. You will become a dynamite leader on your team. Imagine if five or six others followed your lead of becoming a better leader. Think about the team that you would create!Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting