What we should look for in team leaders:
- Hard working. I don’t know about you, but my best captains have been the hardest workers. When they asked the team to run through a wall, their teammates knew the captain would be right there with them…leading the way.
- Strong opinions and emotions. They should be passionate about the sport, about the team, and about their teammates. Ideally they’re able to harness that emotion into motivating their teammates.
- Unflinching alignment with organizational values. What is it you value as a coach? Does your team know? Do your team leaders/captains? Is it being on time? Is it extra film study? Is it supporting teammates who play a second sport? Whatever it is, make sure you make it known.
- Comfort saying no. Good manners are nice but not essential. I had a young lady who was a natural born leader. She was strong and she spoke her mind. One preseason, she came in and it was like a quiet, mousy alien had abducted her. She was worried that she was too strong and was scaring the team. I did my best to tell her the qualities she was trying to hide were her best qualities. And not only that, they were assets our team was in dire need of.
- Dedication to serve the organization before serving themselves. There’s that servant leader concept. Team before self. The teams I’ve had who have suffered through lack of success were always lacking that team-first leader.
- Strength to confront brutal facts. What if your star player is out all night long making a fool of herself (however you deem it) before a big game? Will your team leaders address it? My best leaders squash problems before I even realize it’s going on.
- Openness to change. Let’s say you’ve got a team captain. She’s pretty good, but you see with a couple of tweaks in her personality or how she communicates with the team, she could be amazing. Hopefully, she’s open to getting better…not just on the court, but off of it as well.
Loyalty. To the program, of course, but more importantly, to their best selves. That may come across as kind of cheesy, but sometimes our team leaders are put in tough positions where they’ve got to make a decision that may be unpopular. I’d hope they believe in the type of leader they are and can stand by it.
Once we’ve found these folks and they’ve been identified as team leaders, it’s our job to train them to lead. So often we assume our players know how to lead, but they only know what they’ve been exposed to. What if you showed them leadership videos on Ted or youtube? What if you read them great leadership quotes and asked them what they meant to each one of them? What if you picked a leadership book and read it with them? Training our leaders may be just as important as training our sport skills.