by Bret Johnson
Whether you coach little league baseball or NFL football,
all coaches look to their team leaders for the same 6 essential qualities that
can mean the difference between a good season and a undefeated record. While it is believed that some people are
born leaders, leadership can be developed through practice and conscious
Parents spend countless hours and thousands of dollars
developing the physical skill of their children to excel in their chosen
sport. Coaches know that physical skill
is only one essential quality in selecting key players. It’s the intangible, sometimes immeasurable qualities
that make a player invaluable to an organization. Parents, players and coaches who work to
develop these 6 essential qualities will see their efforts pay off.
1. Responsibility: Leaders assume the responsibility of
representing the coaching staff. During
a game, players are often out of the earshot of the coaching staff. The team’s leaders never loose control of the
huddle. They take charge; remain
positive, encouraging, aggressive and decisive.
Leaders make good decisions on and off the field. They dissuade teammates from engaging in
unsportsmanlike activities. They
associate with other “good kids” and resist common temptations that others
2. Morale: Leaders have insatiable morale. This doesn’t mean just leading the team chant
or keeping a smile on your face when the team is down by 10. Morale can be heard in the voice of a player
who is determined not to give up. Morale
is a tall, confident posture with actions to match. Morale is a “must win”, cheerful, vigorous
and passionate attitude that a player brings to every practice and every
Ethic: It’s not uncommon for a coach
to be criticized for “playing favorites”.
The truth of the matter is hard work and the right attitude will gain
players the opportunity to prove themselves that players of the same skill and
lesser determination will never see.
Team leaders should posses an amazing work ethic. The actions and behaviors of the team’s
leaders are contagious. A team leader
who is complacent with his skill level is a malignancy. Leaders are the first
to practice and last to leave. They seek
assistance from the coaching staff on a regular basis. They ask what they can do to improve their
ability. They are visible during the
off-season. Leaders give it their
all. They push themselves and others to
Skill is an undeniable trait of a
leader. However, skill is broader than
the general notion of physical talent.
Leaders posses both physical talent and the mental edge for the game. An excellent player must also be a smart player. He must become a student of the game. His intimate knowledge will allow him to turn
opponents mistakes into opportunities to score.
The smart player is able to pull off the unexpected without it being a
gamble. The physically skilled player
works on his craft constantly. He reads,
attends camps, watches videos, practices and trains specific to his sport. It is this passion and focus even in the
off-season, which elevates his game.
Some players are born with
skill, but a leader works tirelessly to improve his skill and the skill of his
5. Respect: Respect must be earned. It’s often said that it takes time to
“earn” the respect of others. I don’t
believe that to be true. A player
should look to earn the respect of this coaches and fellow teammates on the
first day of practice. Showing up early,
demonstrating an exemplary work ethic, a winning morale, exhibiting tremendous
skill and a sense of responsibility are things that will win the respect of
your teammates and coaches immediately.
Maintaining this respect day after day, week after week, season after
season separates the leaders from the other players. Respect is tenuous. A player can loose the
respect of his teammates and coaches with one careless comment or one
thoughtless activity. Earning and then
maintaining respect is a difficult job that requires self-control, sincerity,
confidence, and determination.
Summary: As a
high school football coach I speak with many collegiate recruiters. It’s not surprising that they often want to
know more about a player’s personality and leadership qualities than their
skill. Physical skill speaks for itself. It shows up in the paper and in team
stats. Leadership qualities are not as
easily summarized but of equal importance to the success of an organization. To
win the opportunity to prove yourself on the field and perhaps more
importantly, in life, develop the art of leadership.
Johnson is the co-founder of Camp Quarterback.