Leadership and Influence in Sports

I just got the opportunity to attend the Aim Higher workshop run by the Montana High School Association.  It was an event where many high school athletes and coaches gathered to gain lessons on leadership, mentoring, sportsmanship, etc.  A few things struck me throughout the course of the workshop, some pertaining to my career choice and some to the effectiveness of sports to teach valuable lessons to us all.

First of all, I have to mention Richy Powell, Activities Director at Billings Central, for the role that he played in the workshop.  He's been teaching, coaching, and speaking at these workshops for years and it definitely shows.  He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, passionate, and knew how to portray his messages to the crowd, providing myself and all others in attendance with some of the most valuable lessons through his actions alone.  I can only hope to be as effective in public speaking as Richy.

The word I've decided on to drive my decisions in 2019 is INFLUENCE.  I want to be a positive influence on others, especially young athletes.  I know from the experiences I've had that the modern athlete is in need of positive influences now more than ever.  The evidence of the connection between mental health and sports is an argument in itself (I'll be writing about that connection very soon).  But what I realized in the middle of this workshop is not the importance of trying to lead and influence young people, but the importance of teaching those young people how to lead and influence each other.

If I had a group of high school athletes listening to me right now, I would assure them that ANY of them can be leaders.  Doesn't matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, highly skilled or less skilled, older or younger.  The main requirements are these three things: Passion, Enthusiasm, and Commitment.  Why would other people to follow along with your vision if they don't really believe that you care?  Why would people follow someone that isn't regularly excited about what they are doing?  Why would other people follow someone that contemplates quitting at the first sign of adversity?  The answer is: they won't.  You don't have to be a particularly loud person to have these qualities.  Personally, I don't really consider someone to be my mentor because of what they say.  I care a lot more about what their actions tell me.

In sports, teams that can only name their coach as a leader (even if that coach is very good) can only be so successful.  Many things on the field, court, etc. are out of the coach's control, whether the coach likes it or not.  Shouting from the sidelines won't motivate the modern athlete to increase their performance.  I believe that it takes a participant who has regularly shown those leadership qualities of passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to lead his or her peers to their shared vision.  Some teams have many of those athletes.  If you're an athlete contemplating your role on the team and trying to determine if you are a leader or not, I would ask you to evaluate yourself honestly and commit to your decision.


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