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Leadership is for Everyone

LMIPP_USYSA_Article_Leadership_250x350When we think of leaders in sports, we oftentimes think of the Captain or the Coach.  But in a positive sports environment, everyone can participate in being a team leader. Liberty Mutual Insurance and their Play Positve® initiative powered by Positive Coaching Alliance talks about the meaning of leadership in sports.

Leadership In Sports: The Three C’s
Sports psychologists Larry Lauer PhD and Kevin Blue identified The Three C’s of being a captain: caring, courageous and consistent. [1] Successful captains have not just a passion for the game, but a passion and care for their teammates.  They put the success of the team ahead of their own and they foster a team environment of support for each other.  Captains are considered courageous because they are willing to, as Lauer and Blue put it, “step up.”  Captains set an example for the rest of the team, especially in times of challenge or adversity.  And finally, successful captains are consistent in everything from 100% effort every day to consistent communication and support.  Lauer and Blue even hypothesize that there might be a fourth C: credibility.  Captains are authentic, credible leaders.

C’s For Everyone
But, just because certain athletes do not have the title of Captain doesn’t mean they don’t have the four C’s or that their role in a team doesn’t include leadership. It does!  A traditional definition of leadership is that the leader is the one with the title, but in fact influence authority and the ability to lead others can come from the bottom of the ranks as easily as the top. 

Leadership doesn’t always have to mean “taking charge.”  When something – like mastering a new pitch – is in your wheelhouse, you can become a natural leader and teacher.  You can provide the coaching, instruction, insight and support that teammates need to master this new skill.  Leading can happen off the field, too.  Your intervention to prevent bullying, for example, demonstrates quiet leadership that others can and will follow.

And being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. In some ways, the influence of the introverted player can be even more impactful: such as when the person who rarely talks decides to say something, and everyone listens.

The No-Stats All-Star
Shane Battier the retired NBA and US National Team basketball player (and PCA National Advisory Board Member), was once called The No Stats All Star a player widely regarded inside the NBA as at best, a replaceable cog in a machine driven by superstars. And yet every team he has ever played on has acquired some magical ability to win.”[2]  When Battier was on the court, his teammates got better (a lot better). And his opponents got worse. 

Battier decided to be a leader in the locker room, on the court, in practice and consistently with his teammates and coaches.  He put his team and his teammates first, and he helped them get better.  He led by example on defense, even when facing some of the greatest players of the game.

Step Up
When athletes step up and embrace leadership – even without the Captain’s C – teams get better.  By encouraging athletes to seize the opportunities for leadership, both the team and the player achieve more. Encourage your children to see themselves as leaders who can lend their unique strengths and skills to the team to help everyone get better.

At Liberty Mutual Insurance we believe that integrity matters. That’s why we created Play Positive® powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, an initiative that promotes good sportsmanship to help ensure our kids have the fun and positive youth sports experience they deserve. We are committed to providing tools and resources for parents and coaches so we can come together to provide valuable life lessons that support winning on and off the field.

In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series based on the fundamental principles of sportsmanship and relevant youth sport topics, powered by the experts at Positive Coaching Alliance.

©2015 Liberty Mutual Insurance and Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved. This material may not be distributed without express written permission. Any reproduction in whole or part by and individuals or organizations will be held liable for copyright infringement to the full extent of the law.


[1]Larry Lauer, PhD and Kevin Blue, Michigan State University.   The 3 C’s of Being a Captain

[2] Michael Lewis. The New York Times, February 13, 2009.  The No-Stats All-Star

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