Why Your Team Doesn’t Have Any Leaders

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Is your team young this year, or lacking leaders? You’ll be surprised to learn what this really means.

If you’ve ever uttered the above words then you’ll want to read on.

Leadership is an elusive thing. We know it when we have it and we certainly know it when we don’t. But, have you ever thought about your role in your team’s leadership.

Recently I taught a class for the NFCA, and in it we discussed coaching this generation of player and leadership. The NFCA’s attorney, Sam Ekstrand, is an incredibly bright woman, and she made a tremendous comment. She told the class: “When you say, ‘my team doesn’t have any leaders’ I hear you say you aren’t developing leadership within your team.” When she hears coaches say, “we’re young this year”, she hears you say that you haven’t helped your older players become leaders.

Let’s look at 4 ways to help develop leadership within your team:

  1. Be One Yourself – as the coach you are always a shining beacon for your players. Your players are constantly noticing your leadership style, method, & decisions. Lead by example.
  2. Mentor the Upperclassmen – this can be as simple as a weekly meeting going over issues that came up during the past week, and how/why you handled them a certain way, and then asking your players about leadership opportunities they noticed.
  3. Daily Leadership Goal – one way to become a better leader is to be on the lookout for leadership opportunities, and a great way to do that is to have Daily Leadership goals for each player at practice. The players come up with these themselves. Their goal might be to be more vocal today on bunts, or warmup with a freshman, or pick a different catcher for bullpens. They don’t have to be big goals, but simply thinking about leadership everyday will create better leaders.
  4. Lead with Kindness – as you lead, and teach your players how to lead, do so with kindness. Gently guide them through some of the tougher issues that involve disagreements or conflict and help them work to understand the other person’s point of view. Understanding a viewpoint isn’t the same as agreeing with it, but it goes a long way to resolving conflict.

One reason leadership is so hard is because it deals with conflict and decision-making, and both things can be uncomfortable for people. Particularly young people.

A great way to venture into an uncomfortable discussion about someone’s behavior is to start with: “the story I’m telling myself is…”. So for instance, let’s say a player is constantly late to practice and “the team” is mad about it. This means you’ve got a few players in your office complaining. To help these players talk to the constantly-late player in a kind vs confrontational way, encourage them to pick 2 teammates to talk with “Linda-Late.” Suggest they start by saying “Linda, we’re concerned about you being late to practice. We want to make sure everything’s ok with you, because the story we’re telling ourselves is you don’t care about the team since you’re always late.” Chances are Linda-Late will hear this without getting defensive and she’ll explain that every day she has to struggle to find someone to take her to practice, that she loves the team, and never meant to make anyone mad. Then the team can work together to help get Linda to practice on time.

Leadership is a constant, slow-drip process that happens every day, in lots of ways. Be on the lookout for great leadership teaching moments and create the leaders you wish you had. You can do it!

Our on-line Coaching Certification Program, with 7 individual levels designed to educate coaches in the core softball skills required for success, will help you become a great leader, and a great coach.

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