Becoming a Better Leader

Leaders know what they want, they push themselves to act, they take more risks, and they also make more mistakes. Leaders make a difference with their passion, they keep a positive attitude which leads them to success, and they don’t give up on any major goals when they’re down or in a rut. Coaches have said that they want you to step up and be a leader on your team. Your parents and teachers ask you to be a leader to your siblings or classmates. But how does someone become a better leader, especially if they haven’t been asked to step up to that role before? Here are some tips to help you become a better leader, on and off the mat.

A leader can be more influential than a coach- you are an actual, physical part of the team. Remember that the messages you send as a leader, they are heard, whether they be good or bad. Talent is a gift, but character is a choice.

Be committed. For a soldier, it’s charging over the hill not knowing what’s on the other side. To the leader, it’s even more because everyone you lead is depending on you. Show up 15 minutes early, stay 15 minutes after practice. Show your dedication and commitment to your teammates that you’re willing to spare your time to work harder, even when you’re not specifically scheduled or coached to practice more. Show that you would do “anything” for the team, even if that means facing challenges head on or sacrificing your personal time, to not only push yourself, but also help other teammates.

Don’t blame anyone. Put the team on your back when times get tough and lead everyone to do more. When you have an “I can always do more” attitude, your team is more likely to bounce back to being successful after watching you “do more.” Encourage and support those teammates that might be the ones messing up and reassure them that you have their back. The more you encourage someone to see and believe what they are capable of, the better chance of your teammates succeeding at making fewer errors.

Laughter is contagious, leadership is contagious. The great thing about having leaders on a team is that they create more leaders! By bringing positive energy to everything you do, others are sure to follow and begin mirroring you. Having a positive attitude will also help fend off unneeded drama or arguments, and also show that you genuinely care for your team. Create the positive environment that you enjoy being surrounded by as an athlete. Establish a no tolerance attitude for complaining and backstabbing among teammates and towards coaches. Negativity and poor attitudes will never win championships; if your teammates see that you are strict and serious on this, they will focus on it too.

Be competitive, be serious, but always remember you also need to be sensitive. Teammates may have outside stressors that affect them at practice, no matter how much they try to not let them. Family problems, depression, anxiety, injuries, these distractions can keep the whole group from success. Be the listener your friends and teammates need. Pull them aside when appropriate, remind them that they have your support, and do what you can to help those teammates who are going through the off-field/mat troubles. By lending a listening ear, you’ll realize that sometimes, the same stresses we have in our lives; others are going through as well.

Make it cool to be an Honor Roll student. Hold your teammates to high expectations in every area of your sport, including class work! Promote good study habits, have study sessions, help each other out with schoolwork, especially younger teammates who are just getting the swing of being an athlete and a student. Help them set schedules for homework or studying and give them any methods that worked for you in the years past or recently. If you stay on top of your grades, and have good grades, others will also see that and even might end up asking you for a tutoring session!

The locker room is waiting for someone to step up and speak up, it starts with you.