Leadership is and always has been one of the big buzz words around team sports. Individual player motivation and inspiration are closely linked to the effectiveness of leadership within a playing group. Leadership within a sporting or even in the commercial context has been a long studied and researched part of human society and culture.
Leadership in one of its many forms is a collection of specific personal characteristics and attributes which help provide direction and drive for individuals and teams alike. It is important to also to note that different leadership styles will work in different situations and no one leadership style applies to every situation with equal effectiveness.
Within the sporting team context leadership becomes a very valuable commodity and whether you have it or not, it is always a highly desirable characteristic for your players to possess. One thing is for sure is that if players show the signs of leadership they then need to have the ability to put that skill to the test and utilise it to appreciate and mature their abilities. Through trials and tribulations, failures and mistakes a player who has the opportunity to refine their leadership style will in the majority of cases will be better for the experience.
So what options do you have to provide leadership opportunities within your teams? There are any number of spots you can create to help develop leadership qualities within the group.
Every team has and needs a Team Captain. Depending on the sport you are coaching will ultimately determine the level of authority and responsibility this role has? In some sports at the senior level the Team Captain has just as much say at the Team Coach. This role is the senior leader within the group and should be seen as a position of responsibility and honour amongst all the players within the Team.
Within most team settings there is also the scope for a Vice-Captain. The Vice-Captain looks to also fulfil a senior leadership position within the team, but dose so from a sporting position of the captain. The Vice-Captain can be given any one of a number of roles described below to help with the management of the team.
A task specific leadership position can be the Warm-up Leader. This role involves an athlete leading the warm-up and cool-down for your team. This player will help with the establishment of the warm-up/cool-down in selecting the activities and leading the drills used. During this specific time prior to or after a game this player will be the vocal leader within the team.
Another role which can have an impact on your team is the Bench Captain. This position is for a player who looks to inspire those around them while on the bench. The ability to keep every player on your team motivated will have many benefits that many teams never realise. With an inspired and happy bench of players opposition teams will need to compete against a team of ten rather than just a starting five. This player will need to be comfortable in this role and the requirements of it and this person can almost be seen as the captain for the second playing group.
Another role you might like to look at within your leadership group is a War/Team Song Leader. This position is for the player who will lead your team in the Team’s Song. A key point for the right player to take on this position is that they must be an energetic and passionate individual. In this position initially the War/Team Song Leader will be the driving force behind the song and participation, but as the rest of the team grows in confidence the team culture is developed it will become a great activity.
The key to success in fostering good leadership situations is that the players must feel like they own the positions they have been given. As a coach try not to circumvent your player’s responsibility, allow these players to have input into these areas and the discussions concerning them. A suggestion for helping this player develop their confidence is on occasion delivering your coaching message to them so they can pass it onto the group. For example if your team’s pre-game warm-up is not up to standard, then maybe ask the warm-up leader to speak with the group about picking up the intensity.
By having these players in leadership roles it allows for the same coaching message to be delivered from a different perspective and voice. For junior athletes and senior athletes alike this will only serve to strengthen your team’s culture of leadership.