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The backbone of any strong high school athletic program, no matter the sport, is strong leadership among the student-athletes. I have spoken with many coaches from many states over the course of many years who have told me that their best teams were not always the most talented teams, but they were the teams with the best leadership. Not leadership from the coaching staff, but leadership from the kids.
Why is leadership among team members so important?
The fact of the matter is that the voice of kids is heard by kids more than the voice of coaches. Sure, the coach has a strong voice. The coach determines the path of the team, the direction it is heading. But it is the players who have the final say on the attitude that the team has on its way to the destination.
I see it in my own family all of the time. I have three children. If my oldest son Nate, who is 9 years old, wants the kids to screw around, clown around, not listen to their parents, then guess what happens? His sister Taylor and brother Josiah follow him. They don't follow mom and dad - they follow their cool older brother!
I've been around teams that had tremendous talent, but poor leadership. That talent only got us so far in terms of wins and losses, and the playoffs. The lack of leadership among the players kept us from achieving what we set out to do. The student-athletes did not buy in to putting the team first. The "leaders" were the first to leave the field when practice was over, and the last to show up to our pre-practice routine.
That negative attitude spreads among the team. If the top athletes on the team are not following through with listening to the coaching staff, then the "lesser" athletes will not listen to the staff either. If the quarterback and leading tackler are not showing up early to work on their craft, or staying late to help clean up the field, how do you think most of the backups will respond?
I'm sure you have seen this on teams that you've been a part of.
Great leadership among student-athletes leads to great team chemistry. Great team chemistry leads to being able to push and pull through the adversity that hits a team. That adversity might be during a game, or it might be something off the field that happens to a team member. Team chemistry is developed when the leaders on the team buy in to what that coaching staff is trying to do to build up the team.
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.