Leadership Tips for the Student Athlete

By Courtney Dorrel

It’s been said that leaders are born, not made, but this could not be any farther from the truth. While some people are born with effective leadership skills, many people are not and need help to develop those skills. Leadership is an important skill all student-athletes should possess.  Below you will find areas to work on and develop to become a great leader.

1. Be optimistic

After losing a big game or having a hard practice, it’s easy to be hard on yourself and others. But by being pessimistic you aren’t helping anyone and may be actually bringing the whole team down. Keep high spirits and share your optimism with the whole team; it will motivate others to keep being positive.

2. Offer to help out your teammates

If you notice a fellow teammate is struggling at some position or skill, don’t discourage or belittle them; offer to help. By spending a little extra time to help your peers, you will show how much you care about the team and you will motivate others to help out too.

3. Show your dedication

Effective leaders show their dedication in a number of ways. Go to practice early and stay after to improve on your skills and to help others. Push yourself to practice at 110% every time. Ask your coaches for constructive criticism and what you can work on outside of practice. Doing such things will prove your dedication and will also rub off on others.

4. Take responsibility for your actions

No one is perfect. We all will have our bad days and make mistakes. When you make a mistake, whether in school, practice, or a game, take responsibility for it. Then express how you plan to avoid that mistake again, whether by practicing more or concentrating more at that skill or position. Your teammates and coaches will admire your honesty and dedication.

5. Make the team your priority

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be the best player you can for personal benefits. However, leaders show that their main focus is the team as a whole, not just individual statistics. Leaders will take their skills and incorporate them so they fit well with the team.

6. Learn from all of your experiences

An important asset many leaders have is the ability to learn from all experiences, good or bad. Think about certain situations in your life, whether a practice, game, or something else, and recall what happened. Did everything go as perfect as you had hoped? What improvements would you like in order to make the experience more enjoyable or rewarding? Aside from taking learning value from your own point of view, also get feedback from teammates and coaches. No one may like hearing criticism, but a vital skill leaders possess is the ability to take feedback and use it positively to improve the next experiences.

7. Work on your communication skills

One of the most difficult skills for a leader to perfect is the ability to communicate well and effectively. Many aspects can get in the way of good communication, so it is important to keep a few things in mind when trying to communicate effectively. Always know what the purpose of what you are trying to communicate is. If you are not completely sure what you want to convey, how will anyone else? Also, be proactive and make sure that your peers and coaches understand what you are trying to communicate. By practicing two-way communication, you leave little room for discrepancy and will have an easier time achieving your goals.

8. Listen, listen, listen

The biggest mistake a leader can make is not showing well enough that they are listening. If you do not show that you are actively listening to peers and coaches, your credibility as a leader is diminished. When listening to others, make sure you are engaged in what they are saying. Body language is key; establish eye contact and make sure you are not doing other things. Also, make sure you are using two-way communication. Actively listen to what your peer or coach is saying show that you were listening by providing some sort of feedback, whether it be your own opinion on the topic or asking for clarification or more information. When others actually feel like they are being listened to, they tend to respect you more and feel more respected.

9. Be Assertive

One of the more obvious qualities people look for in a leader is assertiveness. Leaders need to be assertive in order to accomplish what they want. If a leader doesn’t speak up, then who will? However, it is important to make sure you don’t abuse this skill. A leader who is overly assertive is often times unpleasant to work with. So, make sure that you are being assertive, but not to the point that your teammates and coaches do not like working with you.

10. Manage your stress

Stress is an aspect that, if not managed well, can greatly affect others. Teammates look to a leader for help and guidance, so if a leader cannot manage their own personal stress, it will spill over negatively to peers. Some ways to cope with stress are to talk it out with loved ones, not procrastinate, and to be realistic with what all you can handle. By managing your own stress, you will have a more positive demeanor and you teammates will enjoy working with you more.

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