Over the past 20 years, I’ve served as a coach for youth sports, a team physician working the sidelines & courtside and as a parent of two young athletes. It has been enlightening to observe those athletes who are particularly skilled in their leadership capabilities. I’ve learned that being a leader can take on many forms. There is not a “cookbook” formula, but it is obvious that every type of team needs leaders to succeed. Here are some of the various types of leaders and their attributes.

  • The Encourager - this leader can do so from the field/court or the bench. He (spoken generically, “she” can apply in all situations as well) may be a starter or rarely see playing time. Either way, he’s the one leading the cheers, picking up his teammates when they are down on the ground, congratulating one after a big play or consoling a teammate after a mistake. This type of leader is often an extrovert and tends to be less focused on his own performance.
  • The Leader by Example - this person is often on the quiet side. He doesn’t lead by cheers or many words, but is frequently a workhorse. She is obedient and respectful with her coaches and rarely steps out of line. A coach often asks her to demonstrate various drills during practice. Other players begin to emulate this athlete, and the domino effect has a very positive effect on the team.
  • The Star - this leader is a “gamer.” He wants the ball when the game is on the line. “Ice water in his veins” is a phrase often assigned to this athlete. She inspires her teammates as she does not hesitate to make a big play during a key portion of the game. Even though a excellent player, to effectively be a leader, the “star” must still remain humble and do things on the game or practice field to make his teammates better.

Every team needs leaders. A championship often team has all three types described above. Even if not a winning team, it’s still important to have various type of leaders emerge on each team. These leadership skills often spill into other types of endeavors, perhaps in the academic or business arena. During the formative years, these leadership skills may help your child resist some negative forms of peer pressure.

As a parent or coach, realize that leaders may be born, or they may be made. If you exhibit leadership in your own arena, your children will take notice. Recognize the personality of your child or player and tap into his skill set to develop their particular leadership style. Also, realize that a child or young athlete may be a leader in one field and a follower in another. That is not a weakness, but just a reality. If an athlete gives his best effort in all that he does, then one or more of these leadership styles will often develop as positive bi-product.

Get busy leading!

F. Clarke Holmes, M.D.

Impact Sports Medicine and Orthopedics