We’re following the leader — Мы следуем за лидером

One of the benefits of participating in sports is being able to develop many different leadership skills. Leadership has been defined as a process whereby an individual influence a group of individuals to achieve a common goal (Dupuis & Bloom, 2006). Certain individuals may earn the respect and support from teammates and naturally come forward into a formal leadership role (Dupuis & Bloom, 2006). This meaning that the coach and teammates may designate the specific individual athlete as the formal team leader usually known as the «team captain». But under many circumstances, leadership is such a big role that one might not be able to carry out alone, therefore sometimes the «team captain» may include more than one athlete. But regardless of whether there are one or three «team captains» it is these individuals that must be effective and he/she or they must be recognized as having the most influence of the behavior of group members (Anshel, 2003).

Kevin Meadows was interviewed for this essay being the starting quarterback for a very successful high school football team called James Madison in Jackson, Tennessee for four years and becoming the «team captain» his senior year. By becoming the «team captain» Kevin went from being just one of the athletes on the field to the spokesperson of the athletes on the field. So what exactly does being a «team captain» and having that leadership role feel like?

Kevin states, «Your anxiety level in a position such as «team captain» goes from about 100 to 210, just knowing that if something goes wrong you’ll be the person that will get put on the spot and probably get crapped on from not only the coach but all the other players and oh yea the fans too! But it also feels good to know that you are the person your teammates are relying on for certain plays, a quick pep talk here and there, teammates ask you on how they can improve some of their skills or even tell you how both of us can work together to make a play better. But mostly I like being that person that your teammates can come to when they don’t feel like dealing with the coach because even though winning is an awesome feeling you know as a «team captain» the best thing you can say is, it only a game and we’ll get them next time!» But some examples of effective leadership include taking responsibility for team failure; giving direction during practice, devising and communicating pregame, game, postgame strategies; and articulating expectations to each team player (Anshel, 2003).

As a team captain is it more important to take the successful leadership role and just tell the team «let’s win the game and everyone will be happy» or is it more important to be effective and tell the team «everyone knows their positions, we went over the plays several times in practice, so lets go out, play like we’re supposed to and win that game»? «I think you need a bit of both. To be a successful leader you have to be smart, tough and determined when you’re entering that game. But you have to care for the other players and talk to them if you think they’re not playing to their ability or if you think they need help with something. Yea we all get mad and yell at each other but to a certain point. So as an effective team leader, you need to be the bigger person and approach the situation to create in the long run a successful outcome. Because trust me tension within the players is asking for trouble», admits Kevin.

Team captains tend to feel better about their role when coaches give them a sense of importance, perhaps a significant responsibility such as leading a team meeting or gathering information from team members (Anshel, 2003) Different leaders also possess different leadership styles such as: authoritarian, behaviorist, humanist or democrat, which one are you? Kevin smirks, «Honestly I think I’m a humanist. I know that may sound sissy to say but it’s true! We’re all a bunch of different guys that play different positions but put together on one team to play a game we all love. Yes, everyone does want to win, but as a humanist and a leader you want every player to play their position just right so the team can make the play successful to score points and win the game!» Humanists are approachable and players can confide in a humanistic coach and disclose their feeling to him or her (Anshel, 2003). So what exactly is being a leader? «To lead, you have to have the trust of the players and do what you can to connect with them and find common ground with everyone on the field even though you two might hate each other off the field. I think the sport of football has to be successful with a good coach, good skills but most importantly it’s a people driven issue. You have to intertwine with each other and be on the same page to make the successful plays, rack up the points and win the damn games!», shouts Kevin.

The development of effective leadership demands time and involvement. «Team captains» are as important as the coach in helping the other athletes to think for themselves and develop a sense of independence while at the same time helping the team learn to work with each other. This is why coaches choose a «team captain or captains» within the team who can provide motivation and direction to their teammates for effective team performance (Loughead, 2006).