Team Leaders Not Always the Player You’d Expect

    But I’ve also been down to points where I couldn’t get much lower on the totem pole. Bad habits in my swing meant that I batted low in the lineup when I started high school baseball. I was behind two seniors in competing for a starting position at the beginning of my junior year in basketball.

    All of this points to what I view in my life has been the defining characteristic of my success in athletics, and what I believe is the key to being a good leader on a sports team.

    Overall, what makes a good leader?As an athlete, you respect those who are better than you, and sometimes try to emulate them. Obviously, everyone wants to be good at his sport, but this is not enough to make him the individual that should be captain. A captain or a leader should be the player on the team that wants it the most. He is the first one there and the last to leave.

    Without that hunger, there is no point in even attempting to lead a sports team, as guys who work harder will have a hard time respecting those who do not work as hard as they do. If the best player on the team doesn’t put in solid work at practice, fools around and yet is still the best player on the team, he is not going to be very well-liked, as he isn’t working hard for the team, let alone himself.

    The hunger to be the very best is what drives leaders in the sports world. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are currently in such a battle to be the best basketball players in the world. I don’t want to go into who is better here (that’s a whole other article, or book even).

    My point is, players like LeBron and Kobe are not the best by accident, though they both have immense talent and latent ability. They are at the top of the most-played and most-watched sport in the U.S. because they work their butts off every single day. For this reason, they are good captains and good leaders that their teams are willing to follow into anything.

    Skill certainly has a part in who should lead; just as someone is not going to follow a lazy player, he will not follow a horrible player just because he works hard. The best leaders are those who work hard and have a modicum of talent. But the best player on the team does not always make the best leader.

    The best leader is often the one with the most experience and most work ethic. The one thing I always tell anyone who asks why I am successful in my sport is, “I may not be the best, but I am the one who is working the hardest and smartest to be the best.” In my case, it turned into a national championship.

    Leaders and captains should be heard, but a voice to drown out all others is not necessary to every situation. One of the best coaches I know, head women’s track coach Darcy Ahner, can barely be heard from 35 feet away, even when she yells. But she is so knowledgeable and experienced that, even with her small voice, people respect and follow what she is saying. When she speaks, people stop talking and listen.

    That is the key to being a good leader on the field, even if you are a quiet person. When you speak, you need to know what you are talking about and be inspiring. That being said, there are times when cussing and yelling at your team might be a good idea, but most of the time quiet, precise leadership is the best way to harness the abilities of a team.

    A good leader can take a team higher than they think they could go themselves, and can make a team better than it actually is. But to do this, he needs to be the first one in and the last to leave. He needs to want it more than anyone else; to know when to yell and when to be silent, and when to cheer and when to commiserate. You can be a leader in anything if you transfer these same characteristics to any part of life; it just takes a little backbone and some hard work, combined with a little know how to be a respected leader in your field.


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