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Helping Athletes to Develop Leadership

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

One of the basic tenets of education-based athletics is that the growth and development of student-athletes is the ultimate objective. This means that young people should learn and gain life-long qualities as the result of participation. And one of these skills, which is often mentioned as being extremely valuable and part of the athletic experience, is that of leadership.

As a coach, you obviously teach athletic skills pertinent to your sport and run drills during practice sessions to improve execution. However, have you ever thought about how you can help your players to gain experience and improve this trait of leadership? This should be part of your approach to coaching! You need to help young people to grow and to develop in all areas and this includes leadership.

The following are a few suggestions and ideas for you to consider.

1.  Provide counseling, guidance and training for your team captains. These are leadership positions, but these young people need direction and help to be effective. At the very least, you need to provide captains with a list of duties and expectations—a job description, if you will.

2.  Allow players to occasionally lead some drills at practice. You are not abdicating your responsibilities, as you will be there to provide supervision, guidance, and oversight. But by giving players the opportunity to select and organize selected drills, you are providing a platform for them to also gain leadership experience.

3.  Give players the opportunity to have input when you are creating or revising your team rules and seasonal goals. And the key word is input. You still have the responsibility for putting together the final copy, but by allowing athletes a chance to participate in the process, you are giving them a voice and an opportunity to lead. With player input, you will get better acceptance of the rules because the young people have ownership. 

4.  Involve athletes in the planning and organization of team community service projects. By doing this, you are providing an opportunity to gain practical leadership experience. Also, young people will be more enthusiastic and involved with activities and events that they have had the opportunity to select. It becomes “their” project.

5.  Share copies and links to articles that explain aspects of leadership with your players. While it can be helpful if this material represents experiences and illustrations involved in athletics, almost anything pertaining to leadership could be used. It is through reading about individuals and how they exert leadership that your athletes can learn a great deal.

6.  Encourage your players to take the NFHS Captains Course. This is one of the free courses that is part of the NFHS cadre of offerings. Because this course in online, athletes can complete it when convenient in their schedules. And, of course, once your players complete the course, you can discuss the principles included as teachable moments.

If you are truly concerned about the development of your players, providing them with opportunities to learn about and to improve their leadership skills should be one of your responsibilities. This effort will undoubtedly have a greater, lasting impact on the lives of your athletes than mastering any sport-specific skill. 

 

David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at: davidhochretad@gmail.com.

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