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Leadership…what’s your vision?

Coach DeAngelo Wiser

Have you coached a player who is clearly the highest skilled on your team, but simply didn’t want to lead? How did you deal with it? Were you frustrated and disappointed? Did you think, “Are you serious?” Was the connection you had with the player impacted negatively moving forward?

I know as a coach we expect more from our best player, on and off the field. Why? Because they’re looked up to by younger players and are an example for our veterans. They have power like no one else on the team. Teammates follow their lead whether they’re a designated leader or not. Without them stepping up as a true leader we feel our team can’t be as successful.

Let’s look at it from another perspective. Theirs. They realize expectations for them on the field are high to score goals, defend out of their mind, make saves, pass with precision and control the flow of the game. But wait, you might be thinking, that is leading. But not the leadership we may feel the team needs most.

Often a player of this caliber needs their focus to be on the tactical and strategic aspect of the game, not holding teammates accountable or confronting them. They may feel it will impact their ability to do their job by dealing in areas of emotion and confrontation.

Let’s consider what we’re asking them to do: Everything. In some cases, certain players are willing. But others, much to our chagrin, are not. To us it often looks selfish and lazy that they are unwilling to lead. We see what they can become as a total player and the huge influence they could have.

Have you considered they may just need permission to lead? It may be overwhelming to think about their responsibilities on the field and now also be responsible for holding their teammates accountable.

What if you shared that you understand it might impact their game until they settled into this new role? Think how you view leadership expectations. Remember a new leader may look at it negatively, such as being a policeman for every situation. Remind them of how you see their role.

Issues can arise when others who are less revered become the leaders. Confrontations between the “best” player and the leader can become heated and harsh words spoken. The “best” player will rarely respect leadership from a player they consider inferior. This challenge usually ends up on your desk or office. How would you deal with this situation?

There are certainly leadership challenges you have or will face such as:

Your best player may be a freshman. Would you push them to lead?

As a leader your best player has no tolerance for suggestions or input.

Your leader is not a great communicator or listener.

Your leader last season is not a leader this year, but still has a group of loyal followers.

Your leader has alienated many teammates and they simply no longer listen or do what he or she asks.

After witnessing several situations, you see that leadership must be changed.

Regardless of the way you choose leaders, whether it’s you, the team or a combination, there will be issues that arise. Some will work themselves out through minimal intervention, while others will require you step in and make some tough decisions.

So how do we make sure those issues get resolved? I’m not sure all of them will, but there are steps to consider when selecting leaders.

1. Develop clear and concise expectations for potential leaders.

2. Interview candidates as if it were a job interview, which it is.

3. Ask real world team questions from your experience.

4. Give them a couple of tough situations and ask what they would do.

5. Ask why they want to lead.

6. Find out what they think the toughest part of leading is.

7. Ask them what they’d do if their best friend was out of line?

8. Do they feel humility and honesty have a place in leadership? What is it?

In today’s climate I believe leadership has become an overused term. Every team is saturated in leadership terms, concepts and applications. Players are often chastised when they simply don’t want to lead. Is it better to push someone in a position they would rather not be? What will be the outcome for your team when a player’s heart and determination isn’t really in it?

I do agree that personal leadership skills must be developed to assist players to ultimately lead themselves. Those skills were formerly taught at home. But in today’s fast moving world, parents barely have time to rest before heading off to their jobs, their child’s practice or another commitment. The responsibility of teaching their children integrity, values, faith and character is often left to others.

Do we expect too much from our team leaders? I often believe we do. What’s your vision of the perfect team leader? That’s important because it’s how you’ll judge their performance. We expect them to be an extension of ourselves, thinking and responding in the same manner. Is that possible? I don’t think so. These are young people who haven’t seen or experienced the situations we’ve been through. It will take time and guidance to mold and shape them into an effective leader.

Through this journey of developing leaders, you’ll see many scenarios. Think of the leaders who’ve been the best for your team. What characteristics did they possess that made them special? For me, it was that they were brave and courageous, confident in all they said and never worried about what others thought if the situation didn’t work out. They were only concerned with everyone giving every ounce of energy at that moment and doing what was best for their team.

Looking back, did you teach them these attributes? There’s something special about true leaders. You’ll notice it when they walk in a room, when they speak and the way they engage and draw others in. As much as we’d like to take credit with our leadership training, I don’t think we honestly can. It doesn’t mean we can’t help them build on it. Just be proud they’re on your team, and the positive and lasting impact they’ll have on their teammates and you.

I wish you and your team the best! Keep inspiring.